Imaginary Girls

 
3.3 (2)
 
3.0 (4)
1977 1
Imaginary Girls
Author(s)
Age Range
14+
Release Date
June 14, 2011
ISBN
9780525423386
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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.

Editor reviews

2 reviews

Magical Realism at Its Finest
Overall rating 
 
3.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
What I Liked:
Nova Ren Suma has been on my absolutely-must-read list since her debut, but I've only just gotten around to reading one of her books. With any new author so beloved in the blogosphere, there's the fear that the books won't live up to the hype. Well, Nova Ren Suma did. Imaginary Girls wasn't what I expected, but it was so much better than that. Suma's debut is a gloriously dark magical realism mindfuck of a novel that kept me curious through every page.

On the surface, Imaginary Girls is a contemporary mystery, the story of two sisters, relatively calm and placid, like the surface of a reservoir. Underneath those waters, though, is another story, a whole town of issues, buried beneath the waters. Suma plumbs these depths, leaving the reader questioning what is real and what is insanity. Imaginary Girls walks the line between realistic fiction, magical realism and flat-out paranormal in such a way that I'm still not sure precisely how I should categorize it.

Chloe, the narrator, is hardly the heroine of her own story. She lives in the orbit of her older sister, Ruby, like everyone else in their town. Ruby is a sun, and everyone within the pull of her personality moves according to her whims. All the boys want her, all the girls want to be her, and she will never love anyone as much as she loves Chloe. Whatever Ruby wants, Ruby gets; no one can deny her anything, so long as they remain in their little town. Everything else is like our world, but Ruby exerts a pull that is truly out of this world.

When Ruby orders Chloe to swim across the reservoir and back at night, and to dive down at the center to grab a souvenir from Olive, the town underwater, Chloe does it. She believes Ruby's assertions that she can do it; Ruby will protect her from anything, absolutely anything. As she swims, cold water and fear engulf her, the sounds of the partiers watching her attempt this feat quieting behind her. Just when she feels she can't swim anymore, she encounters a boat with a dead girl inside, London, a girl from her class.

After this, her father, different from Ruby's, takes her away with him, away from Ruby's influence and their alcoholic mother, away from the reservoir, away from the tragedy. Ruby comes for her, though, finally, two years later. When Chloe arrives back in town, she learns something surprising: London's there and alive. Everyone says she swam across the reservoir that night and that London had gone away to rehab, not that she died. Needless to say, the mystery deepens.

Of course, Chloe could just be crazy, her mind splintering from the tragic events of that night. As in Ian McEwen's Atonement, this whole story could be some sort of creation of her own mind to explain what happened that night or her delusional dream in the institution where she's living out her life. In no way do I think Chloe's a reliable narrator, which adds layers to the already complicated narrative. Nothing is ever certain, which leaves the reader thinking and desperate to unravel the truth.

Suma's writing style is one that I would not ordinarily love, but it worked perfectly for this tale. There's a poetic element to it, and a sort of watery uncertainty, as through the truth is a moving target, bobbing on the ripples. The entirety of Imaginary Girls is dreamy and thought-provoking. Also, dark. Suma does not shy away from drug use, sex, violence, or other tough topics.

At its core, Imaginary Girls focuses on the relationship between Ruby and Chloe. The love between the two is powerful, but also a burden. It's so rare to find YA that focuses on sisterhood over romance, but Suma barely touches on romance. Boys matter so much less to both Ruby and Chloe than sisterhood does.

What Left Me Wanting More:
I never really connected with the characters. It's more about the atmosphere and eerieness than character, really.

The Final Verdict:
On a lot of levels, I'm still not sure what went down in this novel and that's really the beauty of it. If you liked your novels wrapped up in a bow with a moral and clear resolution, Imaginary Girls is not the read for you. However, if you love to open your mind up to new ideas and the puzzle of trying to figure out a mindfuck, go read this ASAP.
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You will probably want to rethink that late night swim...
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot 
 
2.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
If this book was a movie it would have me sitting, preferably not alone, with my hands covering my eyes while peaking through my fingers to see what happens.

Stories like this are the reason I don't go swimming a) at night (in any body of water) and b) I avoid the deep end of every body of water, period.

I had high hopes for this book (the cover is beautiful!) but unfortunately, it left me with an eery feeling and lots of unanswered questions. Why Ruby is the way she is? Her mother alluded to something later in the book but never clarified. Is there really magic involved or something else?

Chloe frustrated me at times because just when it seems she starts to see her sister for who she really is, she gets sucked right back in again. I also didn't "get" that so many people were under Ruby's "spell" either. Even if there's magic involved it just didn't seem that believable to me. I think the only sane character was Owen and I was thoroughly disappointed in how his part played out. I felt like there was so much more to the relationship he and Chloe were developing, the fact that Ruby's influence didn't work on him, Chloe was beginning to pick up on certain things, etc., that could've served the plot more. I kept hoping that the story would pick up at the end, questions would get answered but they didn't. I was left with an overall "creepy" feeling.

I had a really hard time finishing this book and that almost never happens to me, especially with YA books.
Good Points
Beautiful cover
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User reviews

4 reviews

Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot 
 
2.8  (4)
Characters 
 
3.0  (4)
Writing Style 
 
3.3  (4)
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Imaginary Girls
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0
Normally, I don’t give much credence to the author blurbs they put on front covers. Just because one best-selling author writes something nice about the book doesn’t mean I’ll like it too. However, when I saw that Aimee Bender’s name was on the back cover of Imaginary Girls, I got kind of excited. I very much admire Bender’s prose, her plot construction, and her style of magical realism is flawless. Therefore, I came into this book with certain expectations, which Nova Ren Suma fulfilled very well.

Yet at the same time, I didn’t love this book in the way I wanted to, even though it has everything I wanted and more.
The primary focus of Imaginary Girls is the bond between sisters. From the get-go, the bond between Chloe and Ruby is obvious. At times, I would say their love for each other (or, at least, Ruby’s love for Chloe) borders on obsessive and unhealthy, yet I still found it beautiful in its own way.

Suma’s writing is good. I’d probably go so far to say that it’s great. There was a fluidity to her prose that was quite gorgeous. However, I found that Suma’s style lacked a sort of push—there was no driving factor compelling me to read futher. Technically speaking, I think Suma’s style is more suited to a slower-paced type of novel, rather than an edgy magical mystery story.

The magic element was definitely very cool. The backcover blurb doesn’t give much away, and I think that’s probably for the best. The full effect of Imaginary Girls is best felt when you don’t see it coming. Certainly, I think the surprise was the most interesting part.

Imaginary Girls is a book that, outwardly, does everything right. Overall, I’m impressed with Nova Ren Suma as an author and I think she has considerable talent. However, for one reason or another, I just couldn’t get into this. There’s an indefinable something that turns a good book into a great one, and Imaginary Girls, sadly, just didn’t have that something.
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A very weird and pointless book that I had to really force myself to finish
Overall rating 
 
1.3
Plot 
 
1.0
Characters 
 
2.0
Writing Style 
 
1.0
I really wanted to like this book. The cover is mysterious and draws you in and Nova’s writing is artistic and unique, but that’s where the praise stops. The story basically makes no sense. There’s direction or meaning and everything seemed so random and pointless to me. I seriously struggled to get through this book, my OCD about having to finish a book whether good or bad getting to me, otherwise I would’ve dropped it after the first couple of chapters. I was stuck on this book for quite awhile, often wondering if I should finish it or give up on it, but like I said, I had to know it ends. The end wasn’t even really an ending.

This book is filled with idealizations of Ruby by her sister Chloe, a weird and mysterious event involving a seemingly dead body, and a town that was apparently obsessed with Ruby like she was a goddess or something. Nova filled this book with the most random thoughts and events in such a confusing way, I honestly couldn’t see where she was going with this story. Even though I finished the book, I was mostly skimming through the pages after about half way because I just wanted to get it over with. I guess that might mean I didn’t really read it, but honestly, I don’t know how I could’ve gotten through it otherwise.

The characters were uninteresting, to say the least, truly adding nothing to the plot or my interest. The story was not only slow and confusing, but what was supposed to be eerie and awe-inspiring turned out to be dull and ordinary. I found no appeal to this book whatsoever, maybe because I’m not into that artistic, conceptual writing that’s supposed to be astract and mean a hundred different things. I really don’t know what else to say except that this wasn’t for me. I have to say, I’m so happy I won this in a giveaway because I would’ve kicked myself in the butt if I had actually paid money for this book. Sorry Nova Ren Suma, your writing is just not for me.
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Beautiful and Confusing.
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
So, the entire time I'm reading this book, I felt like I was Chloe. I was finding things out at the same time she would. There would be no guessing ahead, because I could never be sure how Ruby would change it. I didn't necessarily like Ruby at first. She was way to controlling, and her weird obsession with her sister was uncomfortable. But what kept me going was the mystery. The sunken town of Olive. The words, for the love of God, these are some of the most beautiful cryptically crafted words I have ever read. This could have been a book with just random lines, and I would have fallen in the same trance I did when they were put into a story. Nova Ren Suma can write! Let me show ya:

“Ruby’s stories didn’t have morals. They meant one thing in the light and one thing in the dark and another thing entirely when she was wearing sunglasses.”

“There was something to be said for the bodiless feeling that came after the cold. Something I would always remember. When you forget how bad it hurts, you feel so free.”

And there's many more beautifully haunting passages in Imaginary Girls. I'll just let you find out on your own.
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Not for me..
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot 
 
2.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
What made me keep turning the page?

Just trying to figure out what in the world was going on
Any complaints?

Not enough depth to certain elements of the story…
Recommendation:

Fans of contemporary paranormal
Final Thoughts…

This was a very strange book. I never really knew what was going on throughout the whole story. It just had a weird vibe to it.

The paranormal elements were just eluded to and never really developed. To me this book had a lot of potential, but just didn’t pull me in.

However, I do think you should give this book a try. I think it’s going to be one of those books that people either love or hate. If you like your books with a side of peculiar, than this is the book for you!
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