Monday, November 17, 2008

Imaginary Enemy by Julie Gonzalez

Sometimes you go in a book expecting one thing and finding something else. You might feel misled and disappointing or you might be pleasantly surprised at the change. I felt all of that while reading Imaginary Enemy and can't decide how I feel about this book nominated for ALA's best book.

Jane White is a slacker and defines herself as that. She hates being called normal, but yet, she wants to fit in. This novel details the growth and maturity of Jane as she deals with figuring out her role in school, in her family and with her off the wall neighbors that she grew up with and then apart from. Amidst the ups and downs of Jane's life, she created Bubba, her imaginary enemy that she writes to in moments of frustration. She blames him for things and hopes that he can solve her problems with invisibility cream. Things for Jane start to change, though, in high school when she realizes just how cool her neighbors are. Then Bubba writes back to her, which can't possibly happen, right?

I felt a little misled by the emphasis the book title makes on her imaginary enemy. Her letters to Bubba are few and far between. At the same time, Bubba doesn't write back until the last 45 pages. So I felt a little disappointed expecting more of that intrigue, but it fell flat. The novel is also very choppy. It details Jane's life from second grade all the way to eleventh (that's a long time) and so you get snips of her experiences. I've always preferred more of a fluid, continuous story, so that detracted from my interest in the novel. However, the stories that were shared, were fun. Jane has a great personality. She's witty, sarcastic, and full of life. She really is an interesting character to follow. The other people who enter her life are also intriguing from her neighbors obsessed with sound, her gossiping sister, and, of course, the gothosaurs. Jane also tends to get in some insane scenarios, like a certain incident with bubbles, which makes her all the more lovable.

I leave reading this book a little hum-drum. I like Jane, the main focus of the novel, a lot, but I feel a little betrayed by my expectations and the format. I don't feel as though that's enough to tell people to steer clear, so I'll leave it up to the readers to decide what they think of Imaginary Enemy. Just be forewarned that this novel is more about Jane than the title character.

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