Book Discussion: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Friday, June 20, 2014
Today I am co-hosting a discussion of Imaginary Girls with the ladies from Great Imaginations (Kara, Lyn, and Bekka).

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.

Let's get started! 

Lyn: Next time Jessie gives me a look like this, she owes me tissues.

Jypsy: Whoa there, what now? I did nothing?

Kara: YOU DID TOO. I saw it with my own peepers!

Lyn: You TOLD me to read this book!

Queen of Awesome, Jessie: Kara, you lose 1000 points for saying peepers. OOOHHH I DID. Cause I am awesome at finding books with excellent prose.

Lyn: Anyways, I thought this book was amazing. The fact that I am an older sister helped quite a bit. This one spoke right to my Big Sis mentality.

Bekka:  Lyn, I totally agree.  Books like this, with bonds between sister, always get to me, and this one nearly killed me.

Je-to-the-ssie: The sister bond resonates with a lot of readers, I think. I identified so much with the younger sister Chloe. Ruby’s characterization was problematic and Chloe’s POV had depth.

Kara: Ummmm. BAAAAAAAAA. Black sheep alert. Okay, so I didn’t hate it, and the writing was lovely, but you guys, the characters were AWFULLLLLL. There was nothing to like about either one of the sisters! And characters almost ALWAYS make or break a book for me. If they are not interesting in other ways (and these weren’t, to me), then I’m probably not going to like it as much.

Jessieee: Okay for me, it wasn’t so much about the characters themselves. Ruby -- I don’t get it. At all. But Chloe, that love that need to be part of your sister’s life and formation as much as she is part of yours? That I get. So I projected a lot unto her, because I had a lot of…. sister feels that got caught up? I dunno, but Suma really caught that younger sibling feeling I had.

Kara: Well, also, I’ve never had a sister. Or a sibling, even. So I can’t relate as well.

Bekka:  Even though I’m an older sister by ten years, I felt that Chloe was in many ways the older sister.  She felt that sort of protectiveness that I think we all feel toward our siblings, no matter what age, and that resonated with me.  But I do agree that the characters weren’t exactly likable.

Kara: It’s not just that they weren’t likable, either. I don’t expect female characters to be all “likeable” and I know that’s sexist to think that so I don’t. What bothered me was there was no depth. In the writing, yes. IN the atmosphere, hell yes. But everything else, plot included, just didn’t work for me, guys. SO sorry. :(

Lyn: I totally get where you are coming from Kara.  Ruby was a “manic pixie” dream girl. My spin on it was this, and it is totally going to sound like a theory that the weird kid in the back of English class makes up to sound cool, but I took it as this: I really thought the whole thing happened in Chloe’s head. Chloe gave hints in the book that she wasn’t exactly stable, and everything in her life was glossed over, so I took it that Chloe had an older sister that she loved, and she drowned, so Chloe made Ruby sound like a near-god in her head to help her deal with the loss of losing Ruby.  The flood waters towards the end sounded like reality creeping in on Chloe’s dream-world. Does that make make sense?

Jes-say: Yes. I think that there is a lot in the book that could support this, and it makes a lot of sense. Far more than the reasons presented in the book. Part of why I love this novel is that Nova Ren Suma never really answered the questions her story brings up. Lyn’s theory makes the most sense and convinced me, but there will never be definitive answer. I love that.

Kara: And this is where me being the black sheep again comes into play. I guess it all comes down to our likes and dislikes as a reader. I don’t usually enjoy my head being fucked with. I don’t like when it feels like the author is trying to deliberately get one over on me. It makes me feel stupid, and I don’t like feeling that way. The exception, and I believe the ONLY, exception to this rule is Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Otherwise, it’s just not my thing. I wish it was because it’s pretty brilliant if you are that kind of reader. So I CAN be objective, it’s just not for me.

Lyn: I understand, Kara. I just ripped apart Dare Me for these same reasons.  I liked the hints dropped by the MC that there was other things happening outside of her reality.  Like, when she made a passing comment about the dad locking her away in the camper because he didn’t want to deal with it.  If the writer is going to screw with my head, I like a breadcrumb trail every once in a while.  But I understand what you mean. This type of book is very tricky, and there is a lot on the reader to do what they will with it.

Best Person In the World Jessie: With Imaginary Girls, I don't think the intent is to fool the reader - but to make them imagine whatever ending they think fits as the author left it. To leave it open to a reader’s interpretation. That is a device totally not for everyone, and only on a case-by-case basis works for me. If I was invested in the romance, I need conclusions and solid plots. Here, I was just caught up in the prose enough to forgive things that at other times would ruin a book. But, however, this was a ⅘ star read for me overall.

Lyn: Bekka, your thoughts?

Bekka:  It’s been a couple years since I read it (and I wish I had reread it prior to this discussion) so I’m a little fuzzy on the fine details.  The overwhelming feeling I remember from reading this book was the fever-dream quality of the writing.  And of course the not knowing - not knowing if what was happening was actually happening, not knowing WHY any of it went down.

Kara: Yes, honestly, I love her writing. Seriously, her technical ability is sound and I give her top honors for that. The atmosphere was mind-blowing and creepy and all of the good stuff, so I had no issues whatsoever finishing this and there are lots of good things here. I liked it much better than 17 & Gone. For me, the rating is a 3.5. I am tempted to only give it a 3, but I don’t think that’s fair due to her technical prowess.

Lyn: I am going to help Kara out a little bit here, even though I did like the book, I honestly believe that it was a personal connection that helped this book along with a high rating from me. If I ever, ever, EVER lost my sister, I am telling you all right now: I would go crazy. I would LOSE it to the worst degree.  So I was able to place myself into that spot. What would happen to me if I lost my sister to some terrible tragedy? I’m not even kidding. That would cause me to snap and go off into the deep end.

Bekka:  I have the same fears, Lyn, and I’m not even that close with my sister because of the age gap.  But there is a certain last book to a certain popular series that has a certain death in it that wrecked me.  Sister books, guys.

Jersey: Yes, the writing makes up a large portion of my affection for this book. I am always a sucker for pretty prose, but I have to admit that Suma’s talent for wordsmanship is not matched by her plotting or characterization. And, when you’re not as attached to the subject matter, that can have a BIG impact on how you view/like/enjoy her stories.

Lyn: I usually find this issue with boy-centered books (sorry). I feel a certain disconnection from the MC when he talks about boners and boobs, so that does affect my rating. That was a big peeve of my when I read Going Bovine.  

Kara: Read Sex And Violence, Lyn. READ IT NOWWWWWW. That goes for all of you.

Lyn: That title worries me a little.  Two things I usually steer away from is right on the cover.

Kara: Hush. Read it. You will love it. Everyone that reads it loves it. It’s brilliant. ANYWAY….

Lyn: Alright, final rating, everyone? I stuck with a 4. Beautiful writing, warped reality, but the mystery took SO LONG to resolve.

Kara: 3.5 for me.

Jesssssie: It was a 4 for me, again. The second time around, I can see the flaws more objectively but I love Nova Ren Suma’s way of writing and will always love it. Even when it is confusing.

Bekka:  When I read it I rated it 5 stars.  It may change if I reread it, but I’ll stick to what I said originally.

Until next time!

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