Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma

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I’ve mentioned author Nova Ren Suma quite a few times on this blog already, and believe it or not, I hadn’t even read one of her books until now. She’s just a great blogger, with an amazing blog for writers and readers, and is worth mentioning regardless of whether you’ve read her books, in my opinion. So, with my handy dandy Amazon gift certificates, I purchased her much talked about Imaginary Girls.

 Here’s the synopsis from Amazon.com, because I’m no good at summarzing:

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.

Okay, so. I read this summary over and over again  before buying this book, because I’ve seen reviews of this book everywhere, but no matter how many times I read it, I never could grasp what was actually going on in the book – and frankly, for most of the story, I STILL couldn’t grasp what was going on. However, this didn’t turn out to be a bad thing. At first, I was confused. Then, I was annoyed. Finally, in the last third of the book, I was enlightened – we were all enlightened as to what Ruby did and what it meant for Chloe and everyone else in the town. 

Really, this is a book about sisters. That fact won’t get lost on anyone. However, it was a relationship that I was incapable of understanding. One sister idolizes the other… partly because she’s..magical? It’s hard to say, even up to the end. The truth was, I didn’t like either of the characters. I hated Ruby – so full of herself, so sure that she could use and manipulate anyone she wanted – she’s probably the biggest narcissist I’ve ever encountered in a book. Then, Chloe, the doting little sister. I wanted to grab her and shake her and say “You have to see through Ruby, you have to see that something is wrong with her and this isn’t the way people should be!” And I was shocked that that was never a revelation that Chloe came to. 

Hm. It’s going to be hard to write about this book without giving anything away. I don’t know what I am trying to say at all, really, other than – despite me hating the characters, I loved this book and I loved this story, but most of all, I loved Nova’s writing. It makes me want to ask her, “Did you read a lot of Alice Hoffman before writing this?” Because there is nothing else I can compare it to. 

Nova’s writing GLOWS. It’s beautiful, and lyrical, it’s like poetry squished into prose, and as annoyed I was by the characters and what they chose to do and say to each other, I was thrown down the rabbit hole into Ruby’s mystery and I didn’t want the story to end – in fact, it took me damn near two weeks to read this, because I didn’t binge it, I just kept sipping away little by little until I got to the epilogue, which is when I put the book down for two whole days, knowing I only had a chapter left, because I didn’t want it to end. Not that I didn’t want the story to end – it was done, I knew I’d be glad to be rid of Ruby, I knew that if she were my sister I would have rebelled against her and told her “You aren’t so special,” but I didn’t want to stop reading the words that fit so beautifully together on the page. 

Nova’s a good storyteller. The story kept me confused and guessing and intrigued, which is what good story tellers do with mysteries, and I suppose this was a mystery more than anything else, part paranormal, mostly contemporary, and sort of horrifying. So yeah, she’s a good storyteller. But she’s a BRILLIANT WRITER. She puts words together, ordinary words, and they sing like extraordinary songs.

Characters be damned – Ruby sure will be. The writing is where it’s at, and Nova Ren Suma is definitely one to watch and follow, because she’s going to be an even bigger name than she already is if she keeps it up to this level. 

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