“It sounded impossible, something no one would believe if anyone other than Ruby were the one to tell it. But Ruby was right: The body found that night wouldn’t be, couldn’t be mine.”
Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, has said a lot of things over the years. She’s said that Chloe would never drown. She said she was there when Chloe first opened her eyes. Sometimes she would say that Chloe was her baby when Ruby herself was only five years old.
Everyone always believes Ruby. Believing her is easy.
Loving her is easy.
Anything Ruby wants, she can get. Until one night a party by the local reservoir goes horribly wrong and a dead girl is found floating in the water. The body of London Hayes does the unthinkable driving Ruby and Chloe apart when Chloe leaves.
Returning two years after that horrible night, Chloe finds that nothing is how it used to be in town anymore. Nothing, in fact, is quite right. Soon secrets, and even some lies, stack up between Chloe and Ruby that threaten to tear them apart. But bonds like theirs–like sisters who love each other better than anyone else–are not easily broken in Imaginary Girls (2011) by Nova Ren Suma.
Imaginary Girls is an eerie blend of suspense and magic realism. Suma’s prose is taut and filled with tension as narrator Chloe works to unravel the lies and secrets surrounding her larger than life big sister. Suma also weaves elements of a local legend into the story as Ruby (and by extension Chloe) become fascinated by the town of Olive–a town supposedly buried underwater when the area was flooded to create a new reservoir.
Filled with subtle writing that is equal parts vivid and razor sharp, Imaginary Girls is a surprising mystery that will keep readers guessing. There is a constant struggle here as Chloe works to determine what is real and what is something else. By creating a character like Ruby with so much power and charm throughout the novel, Suma offers a powerful commentary on the limits of both belief and persuasion in this story.
Imaginary Girls is a sophisticated book, a slow burn of a read that will linger. It’s impossible to say what, exactly, happens over the course of the novel. The entire plot lends itself to multiple interpretations and discussions. What is certain is that Imaginary Girls is filled with wit, humor and love. As much as this story can be a mystery or a thriller, what remains at the end of the novel is an ode to the enduring strength of sisterly love.
Possible Pairings: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anna Heltzel, Golden by Jessi Kirby, Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
You can also read my exclusive interview with Nova about this book.