Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Ruby and Chloe are closer than most sisters.  Their mom is never around and both dad's split.  Ruby has taken care of younger sister Chloe for as long as she can remember.  But Ruby is more than just Chloe's caretaker and provider.  In the town they live in, Ruby is the star.  She's the one everyone wants to be or be with.  And she always gets her way with very little persuasion.

Then something happens and Chloe decides to go live with her dad.  2 years later, Ruby brings her back promising things would be normal again.  When Chloe comes back, things are normal... too normal.  The accident that sent Chloe running, seemingly never happened.  People in the town are still under Ruby's spell, but in almost a trance-like way.

Chloe struggles to find out the truth about her sister and the town, but the more she finds out, the more things like real and impossible start to become blurry.

One thing is for real: Nova Ren Suma is talented.  After reading The Walls Around Us and then this book, I'm definitely a believer in her writing.  I didn't like this as well as The Walls Around Us (that one completely blew me away), but I'm still going to read everything this woman writes because the creativity is off the charts.

The most interesting part for me was the characters.  It featured ones like I had never met before, but they weren't characters I even liked or wanted to root for.  They were people I didn't really understand and don't know if I ever could.  Still, I was interested in figuring out these people in this insanely odd town.

This story is about codependency at it's heart... a really sick codependency.  Chloe is dependent on Ruby for an identity and approval.  Ruby is willing to risk everything to get Chloe back so she can control her.  Basically what happens is- there's an accident, Chloe leaves town for a period of time, Ruby comes and gets her back, and everything in town is weirder than usual when she arrives.  Ruby's acting weird, people who are supposed to be dead, aren't.  And while Ruby always had some sort of magnetic pull about her, it seems that pull has been kicked up times 100 because everyone is falling all over themselves to obey her every wish.

So I was left wondering how any of this could be possible??  Is this fantasy? magical realism? paranormal?  Is one of the characters hallucinating?  I still don't even know if it's none or all.  The lines are all blurred and the ending didn't help.

From page 1 I didn't like Ruby.  Actually, I hated the bitch.  Despite that, I still wanted to know what the F was going on.  I wanted Chloe to find out who she was without Ruby.  I wanted Ruby to wake up and realize that the world wasn't hers and she didn't & shouldn't own people's free will.  I learned really fast that this book didn't care what I wanted.

By the end several things became clear and unclear: I at least came to understand the way Ruby cared about her sister... but still not in a liking it way.  I realized that I gave Chloe way too much credit and put all my hopes for the book onto a character that was never going to be strong enough for that.  And then there were some things (like Owen, Chloe's love interest) which seemed to allude to some crack in the careful Ruby wall, but nothing came of it and I was wondering so hard why I had thought that in the first place.  Much like The Walls Around Us, I think there will always be things about this story that I don't "get".  And I'm cool with that.

OVERALL: The writing is haunting and unique and impressive.  The characters and the story were both equally frustrating.  It's this mix of paranormal and magical realism, but it's cloaked as a contemporary.  So, is it fun because it's doing something different, or frustrating because it's all over the place?  I think both.  And definitely worth reading.

Add it to your To-Read List!!

My Rating:

Date Published: 6/14/2011
How I got this book: It was a gift
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (Penguin)

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  1. This sounds amazing! I love books that are unique and blend genres so well.

  2. I also loved The Walls Around Us and want to read more of Nova Ren Suma's books. I do like that this is more magical realism/supernatural but I'm a little worried that I'll figure the twist out really quickly. I'm glad you mostly enjoyed it though.
    Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally

  3. Oh I LOVED this book. 17 & Gone is also very good. I have not read Walls Around Us yet but I am looking forward to soon.

  4. I am so sorry you didn't like this one more!

    We did a Forgotten Fridays with this one, and I took it as all of this happened in Chloe's head. There were some little clues that made me think this - when Chloe was talking about being locked in the trailer and the whole water scene.

  5. Nova Ren Suma is one of those authors I always read prepared to love but ultimately left wanting more by the end. (That is until I read The Walls Around Us which I really think was a perfect story.) I agree with you on this one and I think reading it and The Walls Around Us close together can really showcase Suma's growth and progression as an author. Great review!