Nobody Real by Steven Camden
HarperCollins, 2018. ISBN 9780008168384
(Age: 16+) Real or Not? This book teeters between reality for the central character, Marcie, and the world and life of her imaginary friend, Thor. The reader is always in a state of uncertainty as the world of imaginary friendship is revealed. This is not a straightforward or juvenile revelation. Marcie (or Mars as she is often called) is dealing with an uncertain future as she stands on the cusp of leaving school and facing the prospects to come. Her secret 'friend' Thor is facing a transition of his own . . . a transition that is revealed through his counselling sessions. Maturity comes with all sorts of challenges.
Marcie's family life is complex and Thor has enabled her to survive through the traumas of her childhood, but what will happen now that childhood is disappearing? Her real-life friend, Cara, is ready to launch, but Marcie is far from ready and their relationship is showing the first signs of complication. Will Thor be able to manipulate circumstances and her attitudes so she is ready to be the person she should be? Coming out of her corner is fraught with problems. Her father is a writer battling his own life-blocks and with limited input into the personal dramas that she faces. His battle with creativity is in juxtaposition to Marcie's imaginary creation and the closeness and comfort that Thor brings. The angst of the teenage Marcie, is replicated in the creative struggles of her father.
This book is highly original, captivating and complex and requires extreme persistence to unravel the unique floating 'voices' that communicate Marcie's realities and the world of the imagination. This confusion is part of what makes this an interesting read and adds a level of intricacy and perhaps a hint of the manic or perplexity that a mature reader would find worthy of persistence. I liked the idea of the imaginary friend (creature) who is not ready to fade from his critical role as confidante; but the complexity of the journey will only be appreciated by those who read in 'meal-sized' portions, rather than a 'snack and nibble' approach, as confusion will be a companion. If the identity of the narrator was clearer (perhaps with chapter heading hints), then the reader would not need to spend critical time re-reading sections to identify whose voice is being heard, and whose feelings and identity is being revealed. (Note: differing fonts used for different 'voices' do not always clarify the confusion.) 'Living inside someone's head' is inherently confusing, so the author has deliberately created mystery as he reveals what is real and what is not.