Cover Image: My Ex-Imaginary Friend

My Ex-Imaginary Friend

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Member Reviews

First of all, I loved the Alice in Wonderland vibes of this book. The story follows Jack and his imaginary friend George who is slowly fading. They lose touch at some point in their lives and after some time try to find each other again and we get to follow along their journey. I really like the plot of the book and its portrayal of the different kinds of family dynamics through the eyes of a child, which are important topics for middle-grade kids. However, I felt that the book was a bit too long and at some points repetitive, which was a bit of a struggle to keep up with as an adult. overall 3/5
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me an E-copy to give my honest opinion on.
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A funny, quirky, and charming story! I had so much fun reading this! This was a modern day Alice in Wonderland ( and I absolutely love Alice in Wonderland) so its no surprised that I had a blast reading this!  The story follows George ( an imaginary friend of Jack) who has been left behind, and he's hoping to find George. This story was heartfelt and really a great read for not only middle grade readers but also for adults.
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Truly a wonderful story for children! I loved how the book touches on the theme of bipolar disorder; it really gives children the information they need on the topic from such a young age! The book really explains the situations children find themselves in, having imaginary friends and then outgrowing them, and also dealing with an identity crisis where they are growing but also want to stay as children.  Family issues and other everyday world problems are all witnessed by the characters, which not only makes the story interesting but also a relatable one.
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Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a DRC of this title for review. All opinions are my own.

I picked this book up on a whim. I loved the cover and I am always looking for middle grade fiction titles to use within my collection. I naturally gravitate towards books that are more YA and New Adult, so finding books that will work for my 6th graders and less mature-minded 7th and 8th graders is always a goal. This book fit that niche nicely.

Jack is going through a bit of a rough time. His parents have split up, and he hasn't seen his dad since he left 9 months ago. His mom struggled for a while, but seems to be doing better. One day at lunch with his mom and semi-awful step-cousins, his ex-imaginary best friend gets brought up. And thus starts his search for George, the half-walrus who was his best friend for many years.

Told in alternating chapters from Jack's point of view, and George's, this is a story about what it means to believe in something, what it means to stand by people in your life, and what it means to be a family, even if you aren't technically related by blood. Highly recommend. This is funny, cute, and overall heart-warming. Appropriate for grades 4-7.
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I loved the concept of this book, and for the most part believed what was going on, which is great.  Parts dragged a teeny bit, but other aspects had a nice pace to them.

I could picture what was going, and thought the message and overall theme of the book was quite nice.
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3.5 stars.

The first thing that came to my mind upon reading this book was that this was a modern-day Alice in Wonderland. It was magical, heartfelt in some places, and pleasantly strange! Great fun for middle graders.

George was an imaginary friend of Jack, who got 'abandoned' at some point in Jack's life as he grew up. Jack thought he created George (he was a figment of his imagination after all!), or did he? As Jack's dad disappeared from his life and Jack's mum faced her challenges, he had to live with his annoying cousins. So, he remembered about his old friend, George, and tried to find him again.

George, meanwhile, had also been looking for Jack, because he was literally disappearing. So he had to find his friend/creator again before he completely disappeared into nothingness.

What ensued was a wonderful, fantastic adventure as Jack and George tried to find their 'families', and each other. As you could guess from the premise, this was a book written not only for middle graders, but also for adults. There were scenes that would mean more to adults than kids.

In the beginning, the book was gearing up to be a 4-star read for me. But unfortunately, it fell a bit short for a few reasons. First of all, I think the 300+ pages were a bit too long, especially for middle graders. Some of the scenes started to feel a bit repetitive IMHO. Secondly, there were scenes throughout the book that were supposed to be the 'climax' of the particular sub-plot, but they just felt 'watered down' - the prior build-ups didn't end up materialising into a satisfying resolution.

Great imaginative book though! And as usual, I was attracted to the gorgeous cover.
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Almost-eleven-year-old Jack is let down by everyone. By a father who just disappears and leaves the family, by a mother who is struggling with mental health issues and leaves him for "just one week," by other kids his age that just don't understand him. Or at least don't understand him like his very best, and imaginary, ex-friend George, part walrus, part human, who Jack made feel like he wasn't wanted anymore. But George won't give up on Jack, and together, the two go on adventures across the city to find Jack's family, only to find that family is much more than a mom and a dad. It can be an aunt and uncle that take you in and care for you. It can be a cousin that shares his own similar heartbreak. And it can definitely be the best friend any kind could find.

Debut author Matejek-Morris has created a book that will matter to so many children (and grown-ups!) that matter too. Deftly describing friendship troubles, different kinds of families, mental health, abandonment, bullying, and a host of other timely topics, My Ex-Imaginary Friend shows us to lift up our loved ones and stand by them through thick and thin, and that letting go doesn't mean someone disappears forever. A wonderful addition to all collections!
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My Ex-Imaginary Friend is the sweet story of Jack and George, a nervous half-walrus, half man creature who was Jack's long-term best friend until they started to lose touch about a year before the story begins. The story is told in alternating perspectives, and we are first introduced to Jack, an eleven-year-old boy who is trying his best to seem cool to his older cousins while out for pizza with his mom. Jack's father left their family several months ago, soon after George disappeared, and Jack has hardly heard from him since. When Jack's mom decides that she is going on vacation for a few days, leaving Jack with his Aunt Rachel and the intimidating cousins, Jack becomes desperate to understand why people keep leaving him and where they go, setting him off on an exciting journey to reunite with George and both his parents. 

George, too, is on a mission, and the chapters told from his perspective are simultaneously naive and incisive, and overall hilarious. Though the first few sentences from his perspective are a bit disorienting--he is discussing a flyer he made with a drawing of himself--I was able to get my bearings quickly enough and almost immediately was filled with sympathy for George, who is wandering about the city, wholly ignored by its inhabitants, and terrified by the realization that his limbs keep disappearing and re-appearing. George was quirky and whimsical, and I anticipate that children would laugh at loud at some of his antics. 

This book is creative, exciting, and representative of so many different kinds of homes and families, which is so important for middle grade readers. 
Jack is such a fantastic protagonist, who expresses sensitivity and emotion in such incredible ways. More than once, Jack openly cries about the situation he finds himself in, depicting the sort of healthy masculinity and emotional processing that kids should be reading. Jack's attempts at bravery as he goes on adventures to find his parents--with and without George--are so endearing (and I LOVED the little detail about George being more scared about things that Jack because Jack imagined him that way, "so [he'd] never be the most scared person in the room." How sweet! And so relatable!) Jack feels lonely and desperate to be understood, and his explicit acknowledgement of these feelings is so valuable in a middle grade novel.

Wonderfully, within the context of tension and abandonment that are so central to Jack's mindset, there are scenes of sympathy and understanding that come from surprising places. Not only are these comforting to read, but they also offer a great lesson to kids who might be struggling in similar ways to Jack. Jason, Jack's thirteen-year-old cousin, becomes one of the pillars of the book, opening up to Jack about his own mom's sudden departure from his life and slowly becoming Jack's confidante in return. Though Jason is a pretty minor character, I immediately loved every page that included him and was so grateful for his presence in the book. Aunt Rachel and Uncle Dave, similarly, are such amazing supporters of Jack, and his reflection on family towards the end of the story is enlightening. When asked about the whereabouts of his family, Jack realizes that answer that came to him was:
"Not on an aimless cross-country journey ignoring her health to tour the world with her new motorcycle lover. Not somewhere at the other end of this too-short-to-never-visit train line, ignoring me and pretending I don't exist. I thought of Aunt Rachel and Uncle Dave, both thinking I'm still in their house. I thought of Jason, glued to his phone as he waits for any sort of update from me. I even thought of Morgan, who maybe told her friend I was kind of okay."

These negative referents bring me to the one significant criticism I had of the book, which was the initial portrayal of Jack's mom's bipolar disorder. We are only given this label for Jack's mom's behavior several chapters into the book, which is fine, and I appreciate that a mother struggling with bipolar disorder and behaving rather erratically was such a significant part of this middle grade story. However, I didn't love the initial portrayal of Jack's mom and their relationship. From the get-go, there was a lot of implied cursing and anger directed towards Jack, and while this may be a reality of bipolar disorder, I found it hard to reconcile this behavior with Jack's evident love for his mother and desire to get her back. Of course, as humans, we can love difficult people, and children, especially, are inclined to love their parents, but I wished we had gotten a little bit more about Jack's mom's character as a caretaker. So much of that was implied by Jack, George, and Aunt Rachel throughout the rest of the story, but it was a little hard to believe. That said, I think that you could have fantastic classroom discussions about this sort of relationship and what to do when we love people who are sometimes difficult to love.

Overall, I loved this book and highly recommend it for middle grade readers and educators. I think this would be fantastic independent reading for mature 5th and 6th graders, and 4th and 5th grade students could have such amazing discussions about the content.
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Thank you Netgalley for providing me with this eArc of My Ex Imaginary Friend in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed reading this. It deals with difficult family matters that Jack, the protagonist, is going through. The way he deals with the harsh realities of his everyday life is to have his half-walrus friend George on his side.

I did think the multiple perspective trope divided in unique chapters worked in the favour to this story although sometimes George’s chapters felt slightly fragmented and not as engaging.

All in all, I did appreciate the themes that this story brought up and the clever ways it selves into the difficult subjects it weaves into the plot that were written with care and sensitivity.

Thank you again for this reading opportunity!
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Excellent multiple point of view approach to the story of a young boy dealing with a lot - his dad has left, his mom is having a manic episode, and he's now living with his aunt and uncle.
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Utterly charming; funny and poignant, you cheer for Jack as he bravely, and sometimes resignedly, fends off the verbal attacks of a pack of step cousins, and deals with the vagaries of life absent father or fully capable mother. Highly recommended.
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This charming story touches on crucial topics like mental health and familial bonds with heart and humor. I highly recommend to other librarians for purchase and to teachers working with middle grade students.
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