Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Pages: 348
Publisher: Dutton
Published: June 14th, 2011
IBSN: 9780525423386

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.

Imaginary Girls was an unsettling read, with the eerie atmosphere getting under your skin and standing the hairs on your arms upright. It was completely compelling and beautifully written.

Ruby has everyone in town tied around her finger. The boys all love her, the girls all want to be her, and things just have this way of leaning in her favour. But  her attention is fleeting, she's fickle and spontaneous, and the only person she's tied to is her younger sister, Chloe. Ruby just has this gravity to her -- everything is drawn to and revolves around her, but there's nothing out of the ordinary about that, right?

I was surprised by the affinity I felt with Chloe from so early in the story. Though the premise of a girl living in the shadow of her older sister's vibrant shadow isn't exactly unique, the dynamic is presented in a unique light. From the beginning it was clear that Ruby wasn't my kind of person, but it was easy to see why Chloe felt so strongly about her. And even then, watching the strong grip she had on Ruby loosen slowly was touching and saddening.

The plot was slow-burning, with eerie suspense building until you're conflicted between rushing through to ease your anxiety over what'll happen and slowing to appreciate the amazing prose. Imaginary Girls was Nova Ren Suma's YA debut and second novel, but she wrote in an smooth and poetic fashion that trumped even much more experienced writers.

So much imagery was at play that created clear and vivid mental pictures. So many of the images were so visually arresting: Ruby walking into the reservoir calmly, London pale underwater with her hair swimming around her, releasing the balloons with Ruby's demands penned on them into the air and watching them disperse.

Imaginary Girls also reminded me of my love of paranormal realism, a genre I don't get to read often (if you know any good books in this genre, you should leave a recommendation in the comments and I'll love you forever). The vague and mysterious way the supernatural element was threaded in way so quietly creepy, like an usually busy road without a single person in sight. The ambiguous nature of the story only made it more compelling. Even long after finishing, you'll be wondering what exactly what was happening.

A perfect ending ensued, holding onto the chilling tone and mystery while still concluding parts of the story. The parting image of Chloe sitting alone, waiting, isn't one I'll soon forget.

Imaginary Girls was a haunting and creepy story of a sisterhood that knows no bounds; breathtaking and original with a gritty romance.

I give Imaginary Girls a 5 out of 5.