Pieter Koolwijk and Linde Faas
A surprising and quirky book about an imaginary friend, in which the reader will never know if the friend was imaginary
The man who runs the scrapyard just outside the village is a troll, the teacher is a witch and the nursery owner is a kidnapper. No one realises, though, except for Ties and his invisible friend, Matey. Luckily, Matey is also a superhero. They’re the only ones who can save the world – so that’s what they do. They just have to accept that no one understands them and that angry neighbours keep phoning Ties’s parents or banging on the front door almost every day.
Books about imaginary friends are usually cheerful stories, in which the reader gets the impression that having such a friend in your life is mostly great fun and it’s more or less an essential part of the average childhood. But it’s not that simple for Ties.
When Ties plays cards with his mum and dad, the fairy-tale figures in his hands start to complain that all the shuffling is making them feel sick. To save them, Ties knocks the cards out of his dad’s hands. When that kind of behaviour becomes increasingly frequent and Ties kicks his teacher, his parents start to worry.
That’s what makes Matey different from other books on this popular topic. The author cleverly keeps Ties’s world separate from the world of the adults around him: the reader can believe both of the stories. Ties is sent to Hopeful House to help him get over his supposed delusions; he sees it as a castle with giants as guards – and he has the time of his life.
Until, that is, he makes friends with a girl who’s been living there for a while and he realises that, if he ever wants to go home, he might have to say goodbye to Matey. But the superhero, who’s both irritating and endearing, isn’t going to leave without a fight. The surprising conclusion leaves a gloriously open ending – happy or heartrending?