Imaginary Girls (ARC) by Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pub. Date: June 14th, 2011
Age Level: 14+
Synopsis via Goodreads
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.
With her eerie YA debut, Suma has created a tale so unlike anything I've ever read before. Imaginary Girls managed to take my emotions and my reason and tear them in two completely different directions.
I wasn't too far into Imaginary Girls when I realized that my brain saw Chloe and Ruby one way, while my heart viewed them in another. You're probably wondering what I mean by this, right? Well, I'll tell you. Let's start with Chloe. My brain viewed her as weak and overly dependent on her sister. The way she acted was like she didn't even exist without Ruby. My heart, however, said here's a girl who's only ever had her older sister to care about her and as a result, she almost didn't exist without Ruby. Ruby brought her to life, and when I put myself in Chloe's shoes, it is easy to see why her sister was such an encompassing, defining part of her life. Now on to Ruby. My brain tells me she's a manipulative, heart breaker who will do whatever it takes to accomplish what she wants and who takes advantage of her sister's loyalty. On the other hand, my heart tells me this girl is somehow special and it's obvious she loves her sister with all her heart. From the moment she was born Ruby saw Chloe as her's and she knew that she was the only person in the world she could really trust and count on. As much as Ruby worked her 'magic' to get people to do her own bidding, she would do anything for her little sister. Part of me couldn't help feeling that I should dislike these two girls, but I found myself loving and caring for them, wanting things to work out in the end. Their relationship was somewhat twisted, but it was also one of the strongest and truest bonds of sisterhood I've ever seen, a bond where blood really is thicker than water. Imaginary Girls also contained a small cast of well crafted supporting characters. There was London and Pete, both of whom I couldn't help but feel sorry for because of how their lives were affected by Ruby. Then there was Owen; I wasn't sure about him to start with but then grew to hate him. Oh and I can't forget the reservoir. Yes that's right, call me crazy but I really felt the reservoir itself acted not only as a setting, but as a character. Honestly though, I would have liked to have seen a little more development and involvement from some of the supporting characters than what I got.
Imaginary Girls starts out fairly subtle and gradually builds from there until it's dramatic climax. Throughout the book, little hints as to the truth behind it all are dropped at evenly dispersed intervals. These hints were confusing on their own but as I received them one by one, and began to piece them together, I could see the truth starting to form in front of me; this kept a high level of suspense throughout the book. My only problem was that the story did seem to move too slowly in places and this did somewhat hinder my enjoyment of the novel. However, I also appreciate Suma's ability to take her time because in real life, things don't always move as quickly as we'd like. Plus, she didn't feel the need reveal all of her cards at once. That being said, the plot does begin to quicken, but not so suddenly as to create inconsistency in the pacing. The mystery, twists, and overall story line were incredibly enticing and imaginative with the unique setting of the creepy reservoir contributing greatly as well.
Suma's writing style is haunting, vivid, and breathtakingly gorgeous all at the same time. It's not often that a writer's literary voice stands out to me as being distinct and unique in comparison to everything I've read, but Suma's did just that. I can't even begin to explain how raw and lovely it was, fully immersing me in the story though I can't deny that it was a little overwhelming at first. The best way I feel to describe this would be like taking someone who loves shrimp and then giving them caviar. Shrimp is super yummy, that's why so many people like it, while caviar is richer, packs more of a punch, but is also more of an acquired taste. Did that make any sense?
Sometimes I'll read a book and when I reach the end, I can't help but feel that the ending didn't do justice to the rest of the story. That's not the case with Imaginary Girls which ended in a powerful, emotionally gripping way that not only left me satisfied with where things were, but also kept me with a lingering sense of wonder and mystery.
What else can I say, without spoiling things, except that Imaginary Girls is a dark and stunning YA debut from an obviously talented author by the name of Nova Ren Suma. (Love that name!) There were aspects of this book that I can only describe as pure genius. It was so refreshing and original and while I highly recommend it, I acknowledge this book probably isn't for everyone. Just the same though, if Imaginary Girls sounds even the slightest bit interesting to you then you should not miss out on it. Suma is definitely an author to watch because I'm sure she's got many a marvel hiding up her sleeve.
Amazon / B&N / Kindle / Nook / Book Depository