February 04, 2020

My Best Friend and Other Illusions

Written by Suri Rosen
Scholastic Canada
240 pp.
Ages 9-12
February 2020

When life becomes difficult, returning to the positive memories of childhood can soothe, invigorate and even stamp out worries. For young children, an imaginary friend can be part of that repertoire of comfort. It allows them to be imaginative, learn how to interact with others, allay fears and explore. But what happens when your imaginary friend reappears in physical form for all can see when you're a young teen?

Thirteen-year-old Charlie Green has a dream and a goal: she wants to attend a gymnastics camp with Coach Mikhailov in Montreal so that she might ultimately join his travelling circus, Circo Circo. But her efforts to raise the money needed have become more difficult. She had been partnering with best friend Holly to perform at parties, doing acrobatics, juggling and walking on stilts but, with Holly's move to Chicago, Charlie is on her own and making a mess of things. Her mother works tirelessly as a music teacher but just doesn't have the extra money for the camp. Her younger brother, Miles, is willing to help through his online poker, but it may get him put in foster care. 

Then Miles discovers someone advertising as Cirkus Celebrations and gets in touch, hoping to find a new partner for Charlie. A boy, who introduces himself as Rudy Jellen, attends a party and works so well shadowing her that it's as if he were a clone of Charlie herself. When it becomes evident that Rudy is homeless and knows everything about her dolls and what she liked to eat when she was little and stories she was told, Charlie realizes Rudy is her imaginary friend from ten years earlier.
Rudy was an archive of joy. (pg. 144)
But as Charlie continues to try to find a way to earn the money she needs, she must also look after Rudy and keep her mother from freaking out, while putting together the pieces of her life that she had forgotten. With Rudy, all things become possible.

Though My Best Friend and Other Illusions is solidly a middle-grade novel in terms of characters, plot and vocabulary, Suri Rosen has extended the story into a more mature one in which children have real worries with money, family, grief, social nastiness and self-confidence. As funny as the premise is with an imaginary friend coming to life, Charlie and Miles' story is a tough one as they attempt to reconcile what their lives are and what could have been.
Everything was so shattered. We'd all lost what we'd wanted and were also so lost ourselves that we couldn't find a way to each other. There ought to be a playbook about the right way to love people. Because sometimes hurting and helping them were all tangled up together. (pg. 136)
Suri Rosen may tie up her story well but it's not the obvious happy ending. Life just isn't like that. Even with an imaginary friend that comes to life, My Best Friend and Other Illusions is definitely real.  And reality sometimes falls short of the illusion of what could be. 

No comments:

Post a Comment