Thursday, May 31, 2012

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 348
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
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.

I read Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls closer to its release date last year, but I decided to re-read it in preparation for a library event hosting her for a dinner/discussion/signing last month. I am very happy that I revisited this one!
Chloe’s sister Ruby is the girl every boy wants and the one every girl wants to be. A few words can get her whatever she wants--but not even she can stop Chloe from being sent away after she comes across the body of a dead classmate. Two years later, Chloe returns to vast differences--and shocking similarities to life before finding London’s dead body. What she discovers will have her questioning death and sisterhood until she discovers the truth.
There are so many fantastic things about this book. I loved the relationship between the two sisters and how unhealthy it was. Ruby treated other people like dirt in order to give herself and Chloe whatever they could wish for. She begins acting like a crazy, overbearing mother to Chloe but doesn’t explain why. The fierce adoration between the two is admirable--they are the only ones that truly love one another; other examples of love in the novel are either shallow or forced on the person by Ruby’s very being. This creates a clear internal conflict for Chloe. She knows what Ruby does is wrong, but loves her and sees how she is attempting to protect her. The complexity of the relationship between the two is so well done. I always applaud an author who sets out to create a well constructed relationship between two characters not based in romantic feelings. Friendships and siblings for the win!
I loved that this is another young adult read that utilizes magical realism! I feel like there aren’t enough out there. I enjoyed the basis for the tale being the creepy legend of Olive, a spooky ghost town that exists entirely underwater that sometimes claims souls for their own.
I thoroughly enjoyed Chloe’s almost-unreliable narrator status--the reader can never know what is true because Chloe begins questioning everything she knows. One of my favorite lines: “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.” (51)
I encourage everyone to read Nova Ren Suma’s young adult debut Imaginary Girls! It’s a great magical realism tale, a great story about what it means to be sisters, and just a well written book all around. Bonus: it’s coming out in paperback in a few weeks!

Rating: 5 - fantastic, shelf of favorites, you know

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