New book: In This Way I Was Saved, by Brian DeLeeuw ’03 (Simon & Schuster)

For a young child, having an imaginary friend is not all that unusual. Typically as a child ages, the benign friend fades away, as the youngster doesn't need the companionship any more.

But what if the imaginary friend wasn't sympathetic? What if as the child grew up, the friend resisted leaving? "What if he refuses to go away," thought Brian DeLeeuw ’03, whose debut novel was sparked by that notion. Published this month by Simon and Schuster, In This Way I Was Saved follows Luke and his imaginary friend, Daniel, whom he meets playing in the park at age 6.

At first Daniel seems like a real friend, but before long the relationship between the two becomes antagonistic as Daniel -- who narrates the story -- becomes more powerful and makes Luke do odd and dangerous things. Set in the Upper East Side of New York City when his parents are finalizing their divorce, In This Way I Was Saved explores Luke's struggle with his inner demons and his relationship with his mentally unstable mother.

One of the most challenging aspects of writing this story, said DeLeeuw, was crafting the scenes in which Daniel and Luke talk to each other in such a way that makes sense for those two characters as well as for the other characters in the scene, for whom Daniel does not exist. DeLeeuw lets the reader figure out exactly what or who Daniel is in the end. "I wanted to leave it unresolved and let people make their own choices," said DeLeeuw, who majored in English at Princeton, and is an assistant editor at the literary magazine Tin House in New York.

Publishers Weekly called the novel a "spellbinding debut" and Vanity Fair said it was "terrifying and terrifyingly good." By Katherine Federici Greenwood

(Photo by Benjamin Collier)