When local writer Melanie Lee first released her e-book Imaginary Friends:26 Fables for the kid in us, it shot to #2 at the Kobo store. Following its popularity, it has now been released as a print book. We recently managed to get our hands on one to see what was her secret.
At first glance, Imaginary Friends easily passes off as a children’s book. A motley crew of colorful characters drawn by Malaysian-based artist Arif Rafhan occupies the front cover. The result is an innocuous-looking paperback that looks like it was drawn from a library stocked with the likes of Dr Seuss and Sherlock Sam.
However, hidden underneath this façade are tales that well, not exactly suited for your average 7-year-old. Case in point: Paul, a “psychic pillow”, foretells a future where his owner, Polly, becomes a victim of adultery. Polly proceeds to shred Paul with a pair of scissors, dooming the pillow to an existence at the bottom of a trash can. Not nearly as brutal as George R.R Martin’s novels, though not suitable for impressionable young minds either.
25-year-old me however, found the book to be a rather enjoyable read. For an adult of average intelligence, you should not spend more than 5 minutes (or 1 MRT stop) reading each bite-sized fable. This made it the perfect companion for my early morning commute, where I am regularly disrupted from the reading process by hordes of strangers. Melanie has also (thankfully) written each story in delightfully simple English, ensuring that your brain cells stay intact for more intense endeavors.
Accessibility aside, let’s be honest. Melanie’s no Aesop – her fables are unconventional and sometimes bewildering. There were times I was left scratching my head wondering where the dots connected when it came to the moral of the story. Other times, the story felt rushed and ended as abruptly – not unlike train service disruptions.
That said, these two flaws actually added to what I appreciated most about Melanie’s writing. Unpredictability. I started many stories with an expectation of what the moral of the story to be. Each time, I was proven wrong, and ended up being pleasantly surprised.
All in all, if you don’t take your reading too seriously, are not a impressionable 5-year-old and enjoy irreverent, cheeky humour, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t pick up Imaginary Friends.