The writer is shifting from coming-of-age to suspense with 'Imaginary Friend'

By Anthony Breznican
February 09, 2018 at 11:58 AM EST

Imaginary Friend

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Almost 20 years after first publishing The Perks of Being a Wallflower, author Stephen Chbosky has a second novel to share, EW can share exclusively.

Imaginary Friend is coming to bookstores in Fall 2019, and it’s a departure from the warm-hearted YA wonderland of his beloved first book. This novel, which will be released in the U.S. by Grand Central Publishing, is described as a work of literary horror.

Here’s a little of what the jacket copy will reveal: The story “focuses on Kate Reese, a single mother fleeing an abusive relationship by starting over in a new town, with her young son Christopher. Her world begins to unravel after Christopher vanishes into the Mission Street Woods — where 50 years earlier an eerily similar disappearance occurred. When her son emerges six days later unharmed but not unchanged, he brings with him a secret: a voice only he can hear and a warning of the tragedy to come to the real world if he fails to protect it. Soon Kate and Christopher find themselves in the fight of their lives, caught in the middle of a war playing out between good and evil, with their small town as the battle ground.”

“Do you remember when you were a little kid and you would look up into the clouds?” Chbosky said in a statement. “Remember how the clouds would look like the shape of a dog or a tree or a face? Well, what if you were a little 7-year-old kid now? With a single mom. And no money. And what if you couldn’t help but notice that for the last two weeks, you looked up into the clouds, and it was always the same face staring back at you? That is the origin of my story.”

Ben Sevier, senior vice president and publisher of GCP, called it “an epic work of imagination by one of our great storytellers.”

In the decades since Perks became a YA sensation, the Pittsburgh native has been working mainly in film and television, writing on the 2006-08 CBS nuclear war drama Jericho, penning the screenplay for 2005’s Rent, co-writing last year’s live-action Beauty and the Beast, and writing and directing his own 2012 film based on Perks.

Most recently, he adapted and directed Wonder, based on the novel by R.J. Palacio, starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, and Owen Wilson.

Chbosky has two children with wife Liz Maccie, a YA author herself with the novel Lessons I Never Learned at Meadowbrook Academy.

Imaginary Friend

  • Book
  • Stephen Chbosky