Friday, June 3, 2011

Book Review: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

SUMMARY: 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.


The Short Version:
Haunting and exquisite, Imaginary Girls does a phenomenal job of blending an intense sister relationship into a supernatural setting. With a constant sense of something being not quite right, but unable to full pinpoint what, Suma pulls the reader in a beautifully addicting way. Both sisters have tremendous character development and exploration, and the supporting cast is equally as present. Suma’s writing is both filled with voice and literary, having a lulling and gorgeous quality to it.

The Extended Version:
Chloe is the narrator, having multiple dominating sides as the book progresses. She starts off as seemingly shy and pushed back, living in her sister’s shadow. This morphs, however, in a very believable and easy to follow way, to see the full range of her character. From being witty and nonchalant to confused, frustrated, and even bitter, Chloe reacts to the events thrust on her in ways that build her character as someone not her own, and not simply a copy of her sister. Chloe is intelligent yet leaves much up to her sister, almost to the point of being a patsy, yet then she comes back swinging with her own strength.

Ruby has a huge presence from the start, able to command a room of people with the flick of her wrist. She is arrogant in a way that is hard to explain but not exactly the traditional sense of the word. Her character has an infinite number of subtle intricacies, many of which aren’t even fully understood until the very end of the novel. Most engaging with her, however, is the constant sense of something being off, and seeing a very clear difference in how not only she interacts with the world, but they return it. The way she treats her sister is very different from everyone else as well, and the bond between these two is fantastically done and, truthfully, beyond words.

There is a small but strong supporting cast. Pete has an interesting role, seeming to be the lovesick puppy to write off at the start but progresses and is built in a way that makes the reader truly love him, and ache on his behalf. Owen has an interesting personality display as well, garnering a few different reactions from the reader while having a strong presence, too. Despite there being a few boys, some of whom are more likable than others, there is not a heavy romance focus with this one. While it is there, it’s definitely a small side plot that fleshes without distracting, but it’s also a romance that isn’t missed or needed.

Though largely character driven in nature, this plot has a huge mystery element which is woven in beautifully and effortlessly. The push and pull with Ruby and Chloe, not only between each other but as a unit against those around them and the place they live, carry much of the story but is handled in a way that isn’t boring or mundane. Hints of something supernatural tease the reader, while never pulling away from the full look at Ruby and Chloe’s relationship. Hints of things to come are scattered throughout, with plenty of brilliantly placed clues to help the reader begin to piece together, but the full scope of things isn’t easily predicted or revealed until the very end.

Heartbreaking in many places, but still having wit and soft humor to mix things up, this one is emotional, engaging, addicting, and just downright amazing. There is such intricacy throughout this book, made even more perfect by Suma’s solid, literary, and gorgeous writing. The full impact of Suma’s writing can’t even be explained, but it has just as much of a presence in this book, at least for me, as anything else. From unique descriptions to infused emotion, Suma holds nothing back.

Imaginary Girls is a hard one to explain just how fantastic and brilliant it is without giving spoilers, but it is a perfect blend of the contemporary and the supernatural. Rapt with subtle messages and deep meaning, it will stick with the reader for long after the last page is done. The ending itself is powerful and memorable, completely fitting of the book and yet almost unbelievable at first glance before the full implications and effect of it sink in. This one is absolutely one of my favorites, and so downright perfect for me in most every way, and recommended to both lovers of contemporary and supernatural.

Source: Netgalley 
Reading level: Young Adult 
Hardcover: 352 pages 
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (June 14, 2011)


  1. I'm so glad you liked it! I'm even more anxious to read this now.

  2. Amazing review! I definitely need to get my hands on this one asap :)

  3. Imaginary Girls definitely has a lulling quality to it! While I didn't "love" it, I definitely liked it :) Great review!

  4. I really wasn't interested in reading this book just from the synopsis but since you enjoyed it so much I may have to give it a try. =D

  5. Reading Imaginary Girls is like fully immersing yourself in a warm bath of smooth prose. Chloe can't quite see the truth of what Ruby is, or the ramification of her own escape from the reservoir. While the story hints to the reader the truth; it's as blurry and muffled as a face underwater.

    Chloe is utterly and totally believable as a younger sister caught up in Ruby's shadow. Her matter-of-fact acceptance of the way townspeople worship her sister, and her talk of the drowned town of Olive (under the reservoir) coats the fantastical with a thin layer of mundane. Only near the end does Chloe and the reader face the stark truth of what Ruby is capable of.