review: imaginary girls by nova ren suma

Author: Nova Ren Suma
Publication Date: 06/14/2011
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (Penguin)
Pages: 352
Source: Library

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.

This book requires a slightly different review because, for me, to talk too much about it would be giving it away. Imaginary Girls is the story of two sisters, but it's also more than the story of just them. Chloe and Ruby live in a small town in the Hudson Valley and have been self-reliant for as long as they care to remember. Their mother, whom they call an alcoholic, has been in no position to take care of them and so Ruby ends up being more than just an older sister, she's also a very strong maternal figure to Chloe. Chloe and Ruby have different fathers, with Ruby never knowing hers and with Chloe's giving up custody to her mother. Chloe idolizes Ruby and, in her eyes, Ruby can do no wrong: everyone loves Ruby, goes out of their way to help and please Ruby, and when Ruby wants something she usually gets it. 

Suma's writing encapsulates their relationship perfectly. One of my favorite things about the book is that it is mostly about 60% prose and 40% dialogue. This might turn people off who are used to having the characters verbally espouse all of the information, but it was used to great effect here. Chloe is used to letting Ruby do most of the talking and generally agrees with whatever decision Ruby makes and so seeing things from Chloe's mental filter only served to enhance the overall story. Let me emphasize that it doesn't remain this way for the entirety of the book and that you will get to see what Chloe thinks of things as events unfold. 

I have to say that I wasn't a fan of Ruby's character while reading and found her too dominating, but now thinking back upon it - it all worked. Ruby worked. In order for the story to be told and to be as mesmerizing and haunting as it ends up being, Ruby has to be that way. There are a lot of twists and turns that you won't end up expecting and will end up being shocked just as Chloe is at the outcome and what it all means for her and her sister. This is a book that's best left to ruminate in your mind for days after reading as it might not all come together at once, but when it does it's incredibly cohesive and the story one of the most original that I've read in a while.

Reading this book in some ways was like home as I'm very familiar with all of the places mentioned: having swam in that reservoir and gone shopping at that mall... it made envisioning everything that was happening that much more vivid and real. As a warning, there's no real ending to the book, but don't let that throw you off as the journey there is more than worth it.

11 comments on "review: imaginary girls by nova ren suma"

Wendy Darling wrote: Mon Jul 18, 01:22:00 AM

Great review, Kaye! I can't wait to read this. :)

Anonymous wrote: Mon Jul 18, 01:56:00 AM

I have this one in my reading pile and am so looking forward to reading it. Lovely review!

Nomes wrote: Mon Jul 18, 02:47:00 AM

oh i like this review. it's so well balanced. i am deeply curious about this book and think i will read it for sure :)

Stephanie Mooney wrote: Mon Jul 18, 08:49:00 AM

I started this book and couldn't get into it at the time. I think it was just my mood. I'm planning on picking it up again sometime soon.

How creepy is it that you've been to all those places? I loved the first chapter because Ruby's made-up mythology about reservoir was so wonderfully eerie. After reading that, I'd be too freaked out to swim in it.

We Heart YA wrote: Mon Jul 18, 08:57:00 AM

Sarah LOVED this book -- she read it twice in one week! -- so we're all looking forward to checking it out. (Well apparently Steph already has, lol.)

Jenny wrote: Mon Jul 18, 12:42:00 PM

I've been wondering about this one. I love books that have you thinking about them long after the last page. I'll have to get to soon.

Kelly wrote: Mon Jul 18, 01:45:00 PM

Great review! I just finished reading Imaginary Girls last night, and I loved it.

Truly Bookish wrote: Mon Jul 18, 01:59:00 PM

Gread review and glad you liked this. I have seen mixed reviews on it and so I was not sure but maybe I will get it from the library.
Truly Bookish

Leanna Elle wrote: Mon Jul 18, 02:33:00 PM

I've read mixed reviews on this one, but I find the synopsis so very intriguing and I totally want to check it out!

Great review! :)

Christy @ TheReaderBee wrote: Mon Jul 18, 02:40:00 PM

This is on my list to read, and I'm hoping our library gets it in soon! Lovely review!!

Alison Can Read wrote: Mon Jul 18, 08:56:00 PM

This sounds interesting. A twist on the sisterhood books which can be a bit overdone. Interesting thoughts on Ruby's character. Negative personalities can work well for a story.

Post a Comment


I am presently on hiatus into the foreseeable future. You can find me on twitter, tumblr, or my writing website,

See you there!

fellow book lovers!

grab my button!

subscribe via e-mail!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Shop Indie Bookstores