13 June 2011

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

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 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 home two years later, a precarious and deadly balance waits…watches.  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.

Imaginary Girls is a masterfully distorted vision of family, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, laced with twists that beg for their secrets to be kept.

Special thanks to Holly @ Good Golly Miss Holly for holding this ARC Tour

The blurb by Nancy Werlin (Impossible) on the back of the ARC edition of this book really said it pretty well in terms of tone: “A surreal little nightmare in book form.”  Imaginary Girls files right in there with The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff because it’s as if Nova Ren Suma had a nightmare one night, decided to write it down and just go with it.  The setting was deep and creepy, as were the characters.  Novels like these stick out for their untraditional way of storytelling, but the distinct differences make them stick out for their brilliance as well.

Imaginary Girls was one of those books that didn’t really have a typical unfolding of events.  Nothing is really explained.  There’s no handsome hero there to sit you down and say, “This happened because of This and now you have to watch for This, That, and The Other.”  So when I finally began to piece together what happened as Chloe did, I got goose bumps.  Especially since I wasn’t sure if I was right.  Even at the end, I was left thinking that there was a trick and that something would be said in a concrete way.  This technique of leaving the reader floundering around for information really adds to the book’s charm.

Also, this incredibly distorted view of sisterhood makes me think, “Who the heck would think of something like this?”  Ruby scares me.  Seriously.  I don’t have any sisters and this almost makes me grateful.  I like dedication and loyalty as much as the next person, but Ruby is extreme.  It’s creepy.  Like something taken off of Criminal Minds.  These little things Ruby does that you know she does, yet you don’t have any evidence and you don’t want to believe it…(I think the creepiest thing was the balloons, because it proved that there was something going on with Ruby that Chloe was trying to figure out.  But I won’t go into anymore detail because that would be spoiling the story for you…)

I liked how it was set through Chloe’s eyes.  She was an honest character who was woefully innocent yet her story was told in this seasoned way, as if told through her unconscious side.  The side that knew what was going on.  I don’t understand the romance—or attempt at romance—that goes on as it wasn’t deepened and it didn’t contribute significantly to the plot.  It did show some personal development on Chloe’s part, however, since it portrayed her and grounded her as a real girl who has unexplainable crushes like everybody else.

The writing was beautiful.  In a remember-to-lock-your-doors-at-night type of way.  The style made every emotion, scene and setting come alive in this nightmarish quality.

An example would be the opening paragraphs:

Ruby said I’d never drown—not in deep ocean, not by shipwreck, not even by falling drunk into someone’s bottomless backyard pool.  She said she’d seen me hold my breath underwater for minutes at a time, but to hear her tell it you’d think she meant days.  Long enough to live down there if needed, to skim the seafloor collecting shells and shiny soda caps, looking up every so often for the rescue lights, even if they took forever to come.

It sounded impossible, something no one would believe if anyone other than Ruby were the one to tell it.  But Ruby was right: The body found that night wouldn’t be, couldn’t be mine.

Excerpted from the ARC paperback edition, page 1.  Subject to change.

For a young adult debut, Nova Ren Suma is astonishing.  I definitely recommend this for anyone who enjoys a good creepy read, and/or if you enjoyed The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff.

Book Info:
  • pages – hardcover, 352
  • published – June 14th, 2011
  • publisher – Dutton Juvenile
  • genre – urban fantasy
  • rating – 4/5
  • received via – Good Golly Miss Holly’s ARC Tour :)