by Nova Ren Suma
Original Publication Date: January 1, 2011
Length: 348 pages
Obtained Via: Borrowed from the library
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
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Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.
This is my second book by Nova Ren Suma, and I’m more enthralled with her writing than ever. While I didn’t love Imaginary Girls as much as the first book I’ve read by Suma, her upcoming The Walls Around Us, I still found myself completely drawn into the story. Suma has the way of writing that makes her words feel weightless. It’s often no trouble for me to distance myself from the act of reading and there’s a cadence in the story that makes me feel like it’s being told to me, rather than being read by me. Imaginary Girls felt that way from the very beginning.
Imaginary Girls tells the story of two sisters: Ruby, the oldest, and Chloe. Ruby’s the type of person who’s instantly charming and charismatic. She can get anyone to do anything she wants and weaves a spell everywhere she goes. Chloe, the main character, looks up to Ruby and is just as mesmerized by her as everyone else in their tiny town. But one day Chloe finds a body in the town reservoir, and she’s sent away to live with her dad.
Then, two years later, Ruby comes to get her. . . and as Chloe goes back to town, she sees London, the girl she found in the reservoir, alive and breathing. Chloe knows that something’s going on, but she struggles to get to the bottom of it. She’s in over her head and the truth might drown her.
This twisted tale of three girls is mesmerizing. I had a good inkling of what had happened right away, but that made it no less eerie to join Chloe on her journey for the truth. There’s a haunting quality to Imaginary Girls, often subtle and occasionally spooky, though not frightening. In every sense, Imaginary Girls is a ghost story, but not only about the people who have died. Chloe’s ghost of her past in this case seems to be quite literal, but there’s also the ghost of the truth that’s following her. Chloe struggles to put the pieces together of what happened one summer all the while Ruby seems to weave an enchantment around everyone.
Despite my love for Suma’s storytelling, there was a sense of something lacking in Imaginary Girls. Perhaps because the book so laser-focused on Ruby, there seemed to be less development of any of the other characters, including Chloe. My grasp on her character was slippery at best, and it made it difficult to lose myself in the story. Something about Imaginary Girls just seemed off, and not in the deliberate way.
That being said, I enjoyed slipping into the story of Imaginary Girls. While not my favorite by Nova Ren Suma, it did solidify my love for her writing style and prose, and I know I’ll be reading more of her books in the future. The story of Imaginary Girls might not stay with me long after reading, but the writing will.
Something about Imaginary Girls didn’t quite captivate me. The characters, other than Ruby, didn’t feel as real as she did, and that was jarring. However, I loved Suma’s prose and the story behind this book, and I eagerly look forward to reading more from her in the future. 3/5 cupcakes.