May 18, 2012

Review: Imaginary Girls

By: Nova Ren Suma
Published: June 2011 by Dutton
Format: Hardback, 346 pages
First Reviewed: July 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

Secrets never stay below the surface.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Excuse the language, it's necessary: Hell. Yes! Hell yes! --end of bad language usage, I promise-- But oh my goodness! Finally! This book...what to say about this book. Finally a book worthy of its hype! I remember hearing so much about this months before it came out. I figured, you know, hey, usually books that everyone's talking about aren't as amazing as I expect. But this? This...was pure freshness, gripping in so many different ways, with a narration completely captivating and unique to all other YA books today. Just...yes!

I've read many books where the authors try so hard to give their characters' voices and the overall prose unique qualities. But they rarely succeed in the way that it's completely new and fresh to readers. Ren Suma is one of the few who succeeded.

Literally with the first line, Ren Suma had me captivated by the narration. There was just a tone about her writing that made it feel as though it was being told underwater. Riveting, I mean by that. So simple in some areas, where she used repetition to aid the prose instead of harm it. Then so complex in others, where I was so invested in not just the story, but just the beautiful words on the page.

And the voice. Oh my goodness. Fantastic use of voice with this. If you're a writer, or even just a curious reader, and you want to know what voice is and why it's important, read this book. I don't think I've ever given an example in a review before, but I just feel it's necessary. This is the last line/paragraph from the first chapter. Don't worry, it doesn't spoil anything:
And no one would have believed it, no one would have thought it could even be possible, not till they shined their lights on the other shore and saw me standing there, waving the comb at them like I was someone special, mythical even--just like Ruby said.
If that doesn't give you a feeling, come closer to the screen so I can reach through and smack you. This narrative was simply fantastic, alluring, and perfect for the story and character. And Ren Suma is also very, very gifted with using themes and symbolism and framing. I loved her overall crafting of this as well. Can. Not. Wait for. More from Ren Suma!

Sure, I've already mentioned the voice of Chloe, but let me tell you how wonderfully developed she was. It seems now-a-days that we keep getting the same types of characters, they're all derivatives of each other. But Chloe? Not at all. So refreshing. Such a mature, yet still young character. She's a shadow of her sister, yet full person all on her own. Strong yet small and frail in some ways. So confused and conflicted yet so observant and curious. And real. I connected with her and felt her connections to others--especially her sister. Just refreshing, she was.

Now Ruby...where to even begin with Ruby. She was one mysterious character that I loved, hated, and everything in between. You never really know her, even though we know everything about her. It's not clear until the end who she really is, and it's then when you realize and understand some of her decisions and actions, which only made her even more brilliantly crafted. She was older than most YA characters, yet still so young and vibrant. Immature in comparison to her sister, but still the protector and the mother. Such an interesting and compelling contrast between not only her different sides, but also to Chloe. They had their alike qualities, but still had this contrast that made them so intriguing.

The story centers mainly on the two sisters, but we get minor characters. These minor characters, though, I can't tell you much about without giving stuff away. I will say, though, that Ren Suma definitely crafted some amazing eeriness and mystery with these other characters, just as much as with Ruby. As for the last major character: The reservoir. It is, indeed, a character within itself, and it is a creepy one, for sure. That's all I'll say. Amazing and fresh characterization.

I feel like I'm saying "refreshing" a lot in this review, but sometimes I've just gotta speak the truth. Even if that involves the repetition I hate so much. This was refreshing, plain and simple. Something so unique to the YA world, it had me at the summary. I was even guessing at the twist before I read the first page--wasn't anywhere close, so I'll avoid mentioning. Ha!

Anyway, this is a perfect example of how a commercial book with no main-plot romance, or even a sub-plot romance, actually, can be so incredibly compelling and wonderful and mysterious that you can't put it down. When's the last time you read a mystery? A creepy nightmare-ish tale in YA where the main character isn't involved in some steamy romance? Where the main relationship (non-romantic) is between two sisters? When I try to think of one, I can't, and this is the main reason I fell in love with this.

And it's not what I expected genre-wise, which is actually a good thing, mind you. Magical Realism. This is sort of a blend of many different genres, and it only left me mesmerized. I was just so compelled to search for answers as Chloe was and even in the end, there are answers left unmentioned. But those answers are ones that the reader gets to dream about in our own nightmares, if you ask me. I love not truly knowing some things. Not truly understanding. This was one of those stories where the current, present story is what's important and the events that lead the characters to that place. But the exact reasons for things is left up to the mind. Simply, this was phenomenal.

Other: I think the age difference might have been messed up a bit. Five and a half years...twenty-one then Chloe, seventeen by the end...if you read this book, let me know if your calculations are the same as mine? No more than four and a half years? Anyway, that's completely unimportant. But I do have to give a shout out to Elena Kalis for the beautiful picture on the cover. I remember seeing her work a long time ago--probably even before this book was announced--and I love, love, love it. Search her on the internet, her work is flawless. Oh, and just a forewarning: There's a couple of curse words used (only about three or four) and some characters do drink and/or smoke. It didn't take away from the story at all for me; it was just what some of them did.

Finally a refreshing, unique read that caters to many different types of readers. Finally: MAGICAL REALISM. I've been wanting to read a YA magical realism for a long, long time, and each time I've picked up a book thinking it was the one, it was always bogged down with unnecessary romance or the plot was never intriguing enough. With this, I know I'll be having some creepy dreams about old town Olive and how the people still watch from underwater.

P.S. I suggest doing a bit of research on magical realism before reading this, otherwise you'll probably just be confused.

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