Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

I am leaving this here solely because I would like this beautiful cover on my blog first-thing, not some depressing post about a hiatus.

Also, hello (:


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 just finished IMAGINARY GIRLS. Literally--I turned the last page a moment ago. It's normally a bad idea for me to write reviews without a breathing period, where my thoughts can take shape, my reaction stabilize. And I haven't written a review for a long time, have purposefully not written reviews for months. But I want to write this so I can think about this book more. I'm not sure what I feel about this book and why. I need this space to decide.

In some ways, this book was everything I could ever want out of a novel. In glittering, shining moments of the narrative, when a particular line uncurled itself from the page, came alive, just stood there and said hello to me, I felt it. When an arresting image appeared in front of my eyes, vivid and real enough to touch or breathe or live briefly in, I felt it. It's that thrilling feeling you get sometimes, when you're reading something that will become important to you. It's like a tickle in the gut. This was THE BOOK, I thought. My newest soul-book.

But for some reason, as the last page lies read on my nightstand, I realize IMAGINARY GIRLS never quite arrived there. What I'm left with is more a fleeting impression of a novel; several alive scenes, restless segments of language stuck in my head, a recollection of dialogue. At this moment, at least, IMAGINARY GIRLS is not quite substantial enough for me. Not quite enough.

It's not because of the prose, because the writing is beautiful. Suma writes with such grace. Her sentences flow ceaselessly on the page, undulating into and out of themselves, connecting with each other in moments of wonderful rhythm. Her imagery is precise--the details, small actions and appearances of characters focused on with microscopic intensity render sometimes surreal, sometimes poignant scenes.

It's not the premise. Magical realism or surrealism are currently my favorite things to read. I want more of it in YA; I'm hungry for it. And I want more stories like this in YA, that leave questions in your mind,
that are perhaps a bit strange but singularly unique, that make you think. Though the slow-moving events and the sometimes lack of a plot won't win as many teen readers over, I didn't mind too much, although I'll admit my attention sometimes waned during long paragraphs of internal monologue. Or perhaps it is the plot--how do I explain? It doesn't feel entirely like a linked story, this book. More a collection of compelling, surreal images. There's more atmosphere than happening, more prose than character.

And it's the characters, I've begun to think, that makes this book one star less for me. They're not quite enough. It's the fact that I can't sense them. They didn't come alive, in the way the setting and the descriptions did. I can't think of a character trait for the main character Chloe other than her obsessive love for her sister Ruby, her yearning. Ruby is easier, I suppose. She's cruel and beautiful and powerful. But Chloe? She's an empty vessel for the story. She narrates. She tells of enigmatic, wonderful Ruby, and that is all. But do I have a right to complain about her, when I love THE GREAT GATSBY so? Shouldn't I think something more reasonable, like Chloe's lack of substance is a reflection of Ruby's power to ensorcell, to captivate everyone and everything, so even a book about her younger sister focuses on her while her "echo" of a sister dissipates?

I don't know. I am left feeling strange by this book. It's not the more unusual turn of events, which I found refreshing and lovely. It's the feeling of having missed something, lost something. Maybe if I'd read this earlier in my life (or later--I'm not sure which) it would have meant more to me. It's the fact that it doesn't--for whatever reason--the characters, I suppose--that makes me feel unsettled, more than the threatening, oil black surface of Chloe's reservoir ever did.

RECOMMENDATION: Highly Recommended. One of the better YA books I've read, though the mystery of why I don't strongly love it (only really like it) is why I wrote this review.


"I was an echo of her."

"In reality I was a pencil drawing of a photocopy of a Polaroid of my sister--you could see the resemblance in a certain light, if you were seeking it out because I told you first, if you were being nice."

"my boots miss your feet
my head misses your hairbrush"

"She locked her eyes on mine. (The whites of her eyes staring up at the half moon.)

She cracked a smile. (Her lips drained of color.)"