• Sara Bond

Pairings Project: THE IMAGINARY CORPSE by Tyler Hayes

TLDR; THE IMAGINARY CORPSE is ultimately a story about the power of ideas, of stories, and of hope personified. Tippy and Hayes give us a reason to fight the good fight, to pursue justice, and to show kindness whenever and however we can. I can’t think of anything more worth reading.

THE IMAGINARY CORPSE is not an easy book. Sure, the pitch sounds whimsical enough: a yellow stuffed triceratops named Tippy solves a string of murders in the worlds where imaginary creatures go to live when their creators don’t need them anymore.

There’s so much more to this story.

THE IMAGINARY CORPSE by Tyler Hayes is one of the most mature, probing, and adult stories I’ve read in a long time. It wasn’t easy to read, and I wouldn’t deny that I struggled through parts of it. But that is to its credit.

This amazing book takes on truly hard and painful subjects, and instead of treating them with kid gloves, uses a kids toy to approach them in an unblinking, unyielding, but always compassionate way.

We start in another world, where the characters, the invisible and imaginary friends who helped us get through our toughest times are still alive. They didn’t stop existing when we stopped needing them, because the urgency and realness they were given when we clung to them prevents them from simply fading away with our memories. They’re STILL REAL, and exist in a world that gives more credit to our imaginations than we ever thought possible. There, the constructed realities that give birth to superheroes, give life stuffed animals, and give truth to our biggest fantasies all exist in worlds that can be traveled with a single thought.

We are thrown into this multi-dimensional world alongside Tippy, the Triceratops who was cast in his creator’s mind as the consummate detective: he’s curious, driven by justice, and broken by things that we won’t ever truly understand. And in the opening moments of the book, he’s investigating a rogue nightmare that’s trespassed in a children’s television show. Soon, he learns that what threatens the Still Real is a nightmare so horrible, so complete, that it can destroy ideas forever. Tippy must hunt down this ultimate killer, or risk losing his friends, himself, and all of his world forever.

The concepts that are thrown at you in the opening pages are a lot, as you shift your perceptions, adjust your expectations, and manage a mindset that accepts imaginary friends and travel by association. Author Hayes navigates your transition well, though it took me several chapters before I could fully appreciate the intricate and tightly bound world he’s created. The rules of the Still Real don’t change, even if the rules of every town/province/world within it, do. Once you get the world, though, the story grips you by the throat and heart and you truly ache for these incredible creatures, people, and assorted others who may be as concrete as universal tropes or as abstract as a bundle of happy thoughts.

Hayes’ completely and delightfully unique world allows him to tackle some of the hardest subjects, and to do so with a great deal of empathy. He approaches his tough subject matter (child abuse, depression, trauma, etc) with so much care and caution, it’s possible to face even the worst ideas. It’s clear that Hayes has done his research, and he is upfront on social media about his own struggles with mental health and wellbeing. He offers support, understanding, and a listening ear, in much the way Tippy does, and that empathy, that compassion for others shows through every page of this book.

TLDR; THE IMAGINARY CORPSE is ultimately a story about the power of ideas, of stories, and of hope personified. Tippy and Hayes give us a reason to fight the good fight, to pursue justice, and to show kindness whenever and however we can. I can’t think of anything more worth reading.



Tippy the Triceratops does not drink. He’s a stuffed animal, after all: the product of a child’s imagination, and bound by the rules she established when she made him. He doesn’t touch alcohol, and his ears burn when he hears curse words.

But the stuffy does enjoy a good root beer, at the Root Beerium. It’s where he goes to drown his sorrows, and when he’s on a bender, it’s root beer bottles everywhere. So, there was never any question, that a proper cocktail in honor of Tippy had to include root beer.

I wanted something that fit with the feel of the book, though. It had to be hopeful, but deep. Strong, but sweet. A slow drinker, not one you can just knock back and be done with it.

A root beer white Russian.

White Russians are already a sweet indulgence, but when you add the spiciness of a quality root beer? It knocks it to another level. This drink is a root beer float without the ice cream; a smoother, stronger indulgence that simultaneously smacks of childhood nostalgia with adult themes. It’s a strong drink, make no mistake, but it feels like a warm hug from a parent. This is a drink you want someone to make you when you’re upset and need some comfort, but don’t want anyone to mistake you for a child.

I don’t think I’ve found a more perfect pairing for a book without making the drink up myself.

Root Beer White Russians

1oz Kahlua liqueur

2oz vodka

6oz root beer

1oz heavy cream

Shake ice, Kahlua, and vodka. Pour into rocks glass filled with ice. Top with root beer, then drizzle heavy cream. Stir and drink while still cold.

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