Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book Review: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Title: Imaginary Girls
Written by: Nova Ren Suma
Published: June 14, 2011 by Dutton Juvenile (Penguin Group)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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 read The Walls Around Us a few years back and I really loved it. Since then I have been wanting to read more of her books. I saw this one on Overdrive and decided to snag it and read this month before I read her new book this fall. And while it was an engaging read, I didn't quite love it as much as I was hoping.

One thing that I did love about this book was the atmosphere. Nova Ren Suma definitely knows how to draw you in with her writing. She is the kind of writer who pays a lot of attention to the atmosphere and the way the book makes you feel. And what it makes you feel is uncertain and uneasy. There is a lot of mystery and wonder in this book which adds to that as well. Her writing is beautiful and lyrical in a way that you don't usually see with YA thrillers, but Nova does it so well.

The best way she does this is with the setting. We start with a small town in Upstate New York. As someone who grew up in a lake town in Upstate New York I was really excited to read this book and find my hometown in it. And while it wasn't as far upstate as I was hoping, it was still a great setting. It's a place with a lot of history that adds to the mystery and suspense of the setting. I do however wish that we had learned more about the town of Olive and the people who lived there. This isn't a historical mystery but it very easily could have been. As someone who loves those kinds of stories I couldn't help but feel as if this was missing something because it didn't go there. But that is just a personal preference.

Instead of being a historical mystery this book read more like magical realism. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Nova likes to add these subtle magical elements to her books. This one of course was no exception. The magic of this book was just one more thing that added to the mysterious atmosphere of this book. And while I really enjoyed the magical elements of this book I wish they had some more explanation too. It was just something that existed and we never got much information about what was happening and why. I just have so many questions when it comes to the world and plot of this book.

However, one of the really interesting things about this book was the characters. I am going to assume that these are not the kind of characters most people will enjoy. But I really enjoyed them because Nova does unlikable characters so well. Because the characters here are truly terrible. The two main characters are Chloe and Ruby. Ruby for one is truly terrible. She's manipulative and does some completely heinous things throughout the book taking advantage of people who care about her. The only person she really cares about is Chloe who is unable to see how awful she really is. I went into this book expecting a good story of sisterhood and I got one that was about a crazy and codependent family. It was definitely really interesting and kept me guessing though. If you like books about terrible people then this is definitely the book for you.

On the whole I enjoyed this book but it wasn't as tight a book as I was hoping. The setting and world is really interesting and atmospheric but there just wasn't enough info or explanation to it, but it does have interesting and unlikable characters.

I give Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma 8.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I picked this up from the library and I think this was the right call. It's an interesting read but it didn't blow me away like I was hoping. If you like any of the author's other books then I would pick this one up as well.

Have you read Imaginary Girls? What did you think? Leave  me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I've actually never heard of this book, but I know a lot of people love the author. I'm not a big fan of magical realism, so I doubt this would be fore me either. I'm glad you were still able to enjoy it, even if it wasn't amazing. Great review!

  2. You had me at magical realism. It's been a while since I read a book with that in it so this book is definitely catching my eye.

  3. I'm the opposite of you, this was my first Suma book and I enjoyed it, but then didn't care much for The Walls Around Us. It is interesting that you mention the author doing unlikeable characters very well, as my main problem with Walls was one of the characters being just nauseatingly perfect. I wish she had been a bit more terrible.