Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: My Invisible Boyfriend

Susie Day
Scholastic Press
For the first time in her somewhat nomadic life, Heidi Ryder has friends. Real, actual friends. And she belongs. But when  those friends come back to school after summer break with significant others, Heidi feels herself slipping out of that belonging feeling she loves and, in a moment of panic, she maybe accidentally invents an imaginary boyfriend.

Of course, the premise of inventing a boyfriend (and then giving him an online personality/life) is one ripe for hilarious complications and hijinks. In Heidi's case it turns out that her super-sensitive boyfriend (who is actually her pretending to be an imaginary boy online) finds out more about her friends seemingly perfect lives than she herself does, leaving her in the awkward position of wanting to fix everything, when she's not even supposed to know anything. As she sets out, with the help of a fictional time-traveling detective character named Mycroft Christie, to figure out why her best friend isn't talking to her and who it is that her other friend's boyfriend might be cheating with, she discovers that not only is having an imaginary boyfriend super-confusing and difficult, but she maybe wants an actual human boyfriend. Add to this the fact that the tea shop where she works is closing down, the owner and her (super-super-cute) son moving to America, and Heidi's pretty much a mess.

It's a little impossible for me to not compare this book to serafina67 *urgently requires life* and the fact is that Heidi's quirky and weird in nearly the same way that Serafina is -- at least on the surface. She's in love with a fictional character (and then an imaginary boy she makes up), she has much online drama, and she's a bit awkward. But despite these obvious superficial similarities, unlike Serafina, Heidi never felt fully real to me. Her worries are very specific things and though her friends are all very unique and original, they all seemed a bit like charicatures of people. Some odd quirks, accessories, a specific role in her life and the drama that unfolds. The exception to this is her American boss, Betsy, and her cute-but-unavailable son, Teddy. The two of them give Heidi and the book itself a much-needed dose of reality.

Much of the book is full of Heidi's detective work as she tries to solve the mysteries of her friend's lives. Unfortunately, Heidi is an awful detective and while this is funny for a while as some of the answers to her questions really are surprising, near the end of the book it gets a little tedious, maybe because the answer to the last mystery seemed really obvious right from the start of the book. This is a short-ish book, but somehow it felt longer than it was. The single-minded character of Heidi is big on quirk, but doesn't quite have the depth to carry the full length of her novel.

And having said all of that, I should also say that I liked this book even if I didn't love it. It's cute and funny and endearing. And completely, totally unique and teenager-y. I wish I could have read it without internally comparing it to serafina67 *urgently requires life* because the similarities are a bit too many, with this book always falling short.

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