Wendy Darling's Reviews > Imaginary Girls

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
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Eerily beautiful and incredibly disturbing, Imaginary Girls is a novel unlike any other I've ever read. As the story begins, Chloe is coaxed into swimming across a reservoir at night by her magnetic and beautiful older sister, Ruby. A dangerous and illegal activity, made all the more frightening because Chloe would be swimming over the lost town of Olive, which was flooded to make room for the reservoir. The idea of swimming over a ghost towns in the dark of night, with the possibility of "cold, webbed hands" reaching out for your ankles, is incredibly evocative and scary, and it created a distinct feeling of unease that never left me.

If that wasn't enough, Chloe finds herself face to face with a dead body at the end of her swim. In terrible shock, she leaves town for awhile to live with her father. Upon her return, however, she finds that while everything still seems to go Ruby's way, absolutely nothing is exactly what it seems--and something terrible lurks beneath the surface of the charmed world that her sister has created.

This is a fascinating story about a compelling and uncomfortable relationship between a mesmerizing older sister and her profound influence on her younger sibling. Chloe refers to herself as an "echo" of Ruby, and the imbalance in their interactions becomes more and more troubling. What rings very true, especially for anyone who might have an older sister herself, is that Ruby mostly does not control those around her with threats or extremely negative behavior, but confidently captivates them with the beguiling persuasiveness of her personality. And it's the poison you love that usually does the most damage. The interesting thing is, as one of my fellow reviewers pointed out, I wouldn't necessarily call Ruby the villain of the piece, however. The situation is much more complicated than that.

Throughout the book, I wasn't entirely sure what was going on--is it supernatural? is it not?--and I think its dreamy, distant mood was perfect for a story that creates a lot of puzzling scenarios but doesn't necessarily provide clear cut answers. I think some readers may have an issue with some of the unresolved questions, but for me, its Twilight Zone quality was part of its appeal.

This is an extremely compelling and layered book, with gorgeous, haunting imagery and quietly frightening scenarios. It takes a gifted writer to make something as innocent as a bunch of balloons into a reason to make you worried and afraid. The shivers I felt upon reading that scene still haven't quite left me, and the disquieting mood of this strangely beautiful book certainly never will.

The Town of Olive:

There's a fascinating story behind the author's inspiration for this novel. The lost town of Olive was inspired by and loosely based on the communities in the Hudson Valley that were torn down to build the Ashokan Reservoir in 1917. The author also answers some other frequently asked questions on her website.

This review also appears in The Midnight Garden.
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Quotes Wendy Darling Liked

Nova Ren Suma
“There's something ugly about a pretty boy who knows he's pretty and assumes everyone else know it too.”
Nova Ren Suma, Imaginary Girls

Nova Ren Suma
“Ruby told me it didn't matter what a boy was thinking about you so long as you had a good hold on what you were thinking about him.”
Nova Ren Suma, Imaginary Girls

Reading Progress

May 6, 2011 – Shelved
July 17, 2011 – Started Reading
July 17, 2011 –
page 7
2.01% ""She meant the width of the reservoir, about two miles across, but it looked like she meant the night sky itself, that there was a universe of time unknown and I could cross it." <-- I already love the writing."
July 18, 2011 –
page 211
60.63% "It takes a gifted writer to scare you with something as innocent as a bunch of balloons. *shiver*"
July 18, 2011 –
page 257
73.85% "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"
July 19, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-50 of 96) (96 new)

message 1: by Nikoline (new)

Nikoline So am I, and I'm not even reading the book yet!

Wendy Darling Hah! The language is really quite beautiful...will keep you posted. :)

message 3: by Nikoline (new)

Nikoline Sounds good! Besides from what seems like a great writing style, how's the book in general?

Wendy Darling Strange, disturbing, beautiful. Not sure what's going on yet, but the story is very compelling.

Cecilia Gray YAYAYAYA!!!!!!

Wendy Darling It's gorgeous. I loved it.

Kate (Nomalicious Reads) I can't wait to read this! Looking forward to your review!

message 8: by Kathryn (new) - added it

Kathryn this sounds really wonderful ! Can't wait for your review !

Wendy Darling It's amazing, I can't wait for you all to read it! Should have my review posted tomorrow.

message 10: by Nikoline (new)

Nikoline It turns out the book kept being brilliant?

message 11: by Emma (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma Louise wow! i must get this :)

Nafiza I liked her other book a bit better. Dani Noir, I mean.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Fourth after Feed, Deadline and Ultraviolet, right?! Oooh, I'm so excited about this! You haven't failed me yet, fairy godmother!

message 14: by Dawn Teresa (new)

Dawn Teresa I'll be interested to see your review, as everyone wants to read it, but not many have yet.

Mandy Told ya! Can't wait to read your review :)

message 16: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah Yay! So glad you ended up loving it, though I thought you would. This was one of my five star reviews for the year, too. I didn't know what I was getting into when I started it, but the whole book is just gorgeous.

Wendy Darling Thanks everybody. I'm slowly catching up with reviews and comments after an unexpected GoodReads hiatus, so bear with me while I get my thoughts in order on Imaginary Girls! I agree, Sarah, this book is gorgeous.

Maja, my 5 star books so far for 2011 are:
Deadline (Newsflesh, #2) by Mira Grant Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Feed was 2010 and technically a 4.5 for me. :)

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Hope you enjoy it, Cill!

Wendy Darling Ohhh, I'm so excited for you Cillian! Yay. :)

I know I'm behind on posting my review for this. I've had a lot of offline stuff going on recently, and I need the proper amount of brainpower to do this one justice. But soon, I hope!

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Then I'll be sure to give Dark Souls a try =)

Wendy Darling All this talk of "borrowing from the bookstore" makes me nostalgic and jealous. *sigh*

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

I shall. Though I won't be into work for a week. Now I'm dying to know what it's like =(

Wendy Darling I know what you mean Cillian, it's both wonderful and annoying all at once.

I did Community Relations/Children's for B&N for a few years, and I also worked in a secondhand bookstore throughout college. I occasionally still offer unsolicited suggestions for books when I'm out shopping. It's a sickness, I tell you!

message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Worst thing for me: having to sell memberships to customers who either already have them or don't want them at all. We have a quota that needs to be met each week.

Wendy Darling Nope, on the east coast a few years ago. I actually met my husband there, we were both booksellers. (I know, so wholesome it's disgusting.)

message 26: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Ooooh, now I am really looking forward to this one! I just picked it up last night. :)

Wendy Darling Oh good, I can't wait to hear what you think, Laura! I really need to write my review. This one's harder to write since it deserves a little more time and attention.

message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

This one looks good (the cover is beautiful!) I'm glad you enjoyed it, Wendy. Looking forward to your review!

Wendy Darling The book is SO good, Leanne, and I hope you get a chance to read it soon! Finally posted my review, phew. :)

message 30: by Kelly (new) - added it

Kelly Oooh, this sounds so creepily amazing. I'm reminded of some of Carol Goodman's books, actually. There's usually water, and death, and sunken something under the water.

message 31: by HeatherJay (new)

HeatherJay Great review, Wendy! I look forward to reading it!

Isamlq this is a great review Wendy! :)

message 33: by Flannery (new) - added it

Flannery This sounds creepster. I like that.

Limonessa I like your review. I don't like the word unanswered in your review, as I am reading it now and wondering what is going on.

Brooke Ooh, looks like this one needs to be bumped up my list. It's sitting at home, patiently waiting to be read :o) great review!!

message 36: by Emma (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma Louise I love how you included some info on the inspiration for Olive in the review, I found it extremely fascinating. I can kind of imagine an entire book based around that concept. Great review, it really does have that Twilight Zone feel :)

message 37: by Lora (new) - added it

Lora I was starting to think this wouldn't get a review! ;)

Lovely review.

message 38: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura I am REALLY looking forward to this book! “Twilight Zone quality”?!? Nice! :)

message 39: by Wendy Darling (last edited Aug 24, 2011 09:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wendy Darling Thank so much for your comments, everyone! I loved this book and I hope a lot of readers will give it a try. I'm glad I finally got around to writing my review Lora, hah.

It's definitely creepy, Flann--and Kelly, I'm going to have to look into that author you mentioned. Emma, the idea of the flooded towns is fascinating to me, I'd love to read more about this sort of thing, and a whole book based around that would be amazing, too.

Lisa, let's just say that the questions never stop coming...and some things are left open to interpretation. ;) Brooke and Laura, I can't wait to hear what you think of it!

message 40: by Amber (new)

Amber Beautifully written. I like that you added the info at the bottom too.

Wendy Darling Thanks Amber! :)

message 42: by Rose (new) - added it

Rose Excellent review. Will be adding this to my ever growing "to-read" list. :)

Wendy Darling I'm so glad you're loving the writing, Cillian! Phew. And Rose, I hope you get a chance to read this soon.

message 44: by Nalnac (new)

Nalnac oh..I have to read this, don't I?!Uff.. You and your beautiful reviews Wendy ;) ..*runs to TR list*

Wendy Darling YES. Get thee to a bookstore, Nanalla!

message 46: by Tintin (new)

Tintin This review got me interested in the book. I added it to my Amazon wish list.

Wendy Darling Thanks Tintin! I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

message 48: by J. D. (new)

J. D. Montague Wendy, I've read about 20 reviews of this book, but YOURS is the one that convinced me I need to read this...ASAP. Wowsa. Fantastic job.

message 49: by Joy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy Joy I gotta read this one... Great review!

Wendy Darling Aw, thanks so much, J.D. and Joy! I think for some people, this can be a really beautiful reading experience. It's definitely unique.

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