Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
Published: June 14th 2011 by Speak/Penguin
Source: local library (audiobook)
Synopsis (Goodreads): Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be contained or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the 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 deeply hidden away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
A regular from my book club submitted a review to the Teen Zone blog, which is what initially put this book on my radar. I’d been meaning to read it for a year before I finally checked out the audiobook to listen to on my early morning commute this past semester.
Not only can i recommend the book to fans of creepy young adult literature with gorgeous prose, the excellent narration that completely captured the dreamy, otherworldly story makes it a solid recommendation to fans of audiobooks.
This novel is so different from the standard young adult fare, and the plot is rather difficult to explain. What makes it stand out is not only the writing, which is excellent, even exquisite, but the story. Instead of focusing on a romance, the central romance is between two sisters.
Chloe, the younger sister, narrates a tale that on its surface, is familiar to anyone who has lived in a small town. Teenagers party on the shores of the sleepy, small-town’s resevoir. One night Ruby, the older sister, declares that her younger sister, who is an excellent swimmer, can cross the resevoir in the darkness of night and return with proof of her successful voyage. Except what Chloe finds, when she accepts the challenge, is a boat with a dead body in it. The body belongs to a classmate, London, and due to the trauma, Chloe goes to live with her dad.
But Ruby finds Chloe, and brings her back under her influence. And Chloe learns that London is not dead, despite the obituary her mom mailed her after she’d moved in with her dad. London is very much alive, and Ruby is still a driving force in town, one of those girls who everyone hates but secretly wants to be. The girl who has everyone wrapped around her finger.
Hidden as deep as the town that was flooded to create the resevoir is the truth of this novel, the truth of Ruby. In absolutely magical prose, Nova Ren Suma entrances readers to follow this mind-boggling story until the end.
This book is for the dissastisfied reader who wants more from a story. It’s for readers who are comfortable with an unreliable narrator and a frustratingly slow plot. It’s moody and dark and atmospheric. It’s not for every reader, but those who crave a thought-provoking, creepy read will love this book. The audio version is fantastic. Emma Galvin, who reader’s may recognize from Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell (another favorite of mine) or the Divergent audiobooks, and her dreamy narration fit the story perfectly.
Recommended for fans of:
Though nothing is quite like this story, readers might also enjoy books by Courtney Summers or Adele Griffin.
The Book Smugglers: “Imaginary Girls is very creepy, uncomfortable and disturbing.”
Kim from Stacked Books: “What ultimately sets this book apart is its writing. Nova Ren Suma has created a deliciously creepy book full of odd happenings all seen through a sort of haze. It’s difficult to get a handle on what’s really going on, because Chloe herself isn’t always sure. That aspect gives the book a feeling of magical realism rather than straight up fantasy or paranormal. And even thoughImaginary Girls has elements of the paranormal, which can be found in so many current YA books, you’ll come away from it knowing you’ve really never read anything like it.”
Cuddlebuggery: “The atmosphere, meanwhile, is eerie and bewitching, so dreamy in quality that you spend a good portion of the novel pondering the validity of it all. What is real? What is not? Suma just pulls you under and keeps you entranced for the entirety of the story. Once the tale has been told, you emerge with a feeling of satisfying bewilderment and hushed appreciation.”
Late Nights with Good Books: “From an aesthetic standpoint, Imaginary Girls is pretty much perfect. Nova Ren Suma is clearly a talented writer, and her dreamy, poetic description imbued a sense of wonder in me as the reader. Her writing works with small-town life tropes and examines the bonds of sisterhood in new ways. By reading even a few pages of her work, readers can easily find themselves walking along the rocks that border the reservoir, starting into its dark, murky depths.”