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review 2017-06-03 19:07
Review: Imaginary Girls (Nova Ren Suma)
Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma

Series: N/A

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (2011)

Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Mystery


This book is beautiful. And it's ugly, sometimes, even. And it's definitely weird.

I was in a reading slump. I didn't feel like reading anything at all and that is a very scary feeling for a book lover as all book lovers know. I started reading Imaginary Girls in this mindset, and at first I wasn't interested. Not much really.
But then the pace of the book picked up and I wanted to know more and more and I just had to read. And I also had to stop because I wanted this book to last, if that makes sense.
Ruby and Chloe are sisters. They might as well be orphans because they have different fathers and their mother loves her bottles more than she loves them. But it's all right, because Ruby takes care of Chloe. Ruby can get anything she wants, from anyone.
And so Ruby raises Chloe and tells her stories about the town that was there before their town but was destroyed by water when New York City decided to make a reservoir. And that the townsfolk didn't leave and now live in the underwater city.
One day an accident happens. Chloe is swimming and she finds a dead girl. She is sent to live with her father but after two years, Ruby wants her back. And Ruby always gets what she wants.
Imaginary Girls was... well, I can't even say. I really liked it because it is just so... strange (but good strange). There's a main character who isn't the main character, there is love that is more obsession than love but in the end it is love and the emotions portrayed in this novel turn everything around and make us doubt our assumptions about the characters.
I can't even describe this book properly. It has that ethereal quality of otherness that so many paranormal books try to achieve but can't. It is truly compelling and beautiful, not because of the writing being poetic or anything. It's just the story, the overall subtleness of the plot and of the characters that make it so. And Chloe's unique and flawed perspective is what makes this book so magical.
Imaginary Girls is the story of two sisters that had a hard time growing up. It's about love so strong it ends up destroying instead of nurturing. The characters were spellbinding and interesting. The story was haunting and the paranormal elements were subtle and so well placed you never really know if there is something supernatural.
The plot is well constructed and keeps you guessing. But what really makes this book shine are the characters. They seem so real and at the same time so... other, so different. I must say I didn't much care for Chloe's "love interest", though.
Overall, a great read. It is a mysterious book that will keep you reading just to find out what is real and what is not. Recommended.


Blast from the past: originally read and reviewed in 2012

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url 2016-03-30 13:41
Young Adult Magical Realism Recommendations

YA Magical Realism is still a fledging genre, I think. Compared to the YA fantasy and contemporary books that are published each year, it’s a much smaller part of the pie. But as I’ve said before, I’d love to see more YA magical realism. I basically love magical realism because I think in YA, in particular, these kinds of stories take really unexpected turns and can push the boundaries of what YA does. Some people think that magical realism stories are slow-paced and they can be, but for good reason. I’m not an expert, but the magical realism definition according to Wikipedia involves work that “share… an acceptance of magic in the rational world…. Magical realism… refers to literature in particular that portrays magical or unreal elements as a natural part in an otherwise realistic or mundane environment.” According to The Atlantic, when they wrote an obituary for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, they mentioned how his works were “quintessential examples of ‘magic realism’: fiction that integrates elements of fantasy into otherwise realistic settings.” (More magical realism definitions, re: YA magical realism & urban fantasy vs. magical realism).

This is where things get a little hazy for me – because Urban Fantasy often includes magic + contemporary settings, but the feeling of urban fantasy is much different from that of magical realism, though I think both could end up in an urban setting if you wanted. I think that UF is much more likely to include creatures of legends; both can have that dreamy feeling, too, but then I think magical realism focuses more on the individual, the main character and the MC’s unique experience. You can have character-driven urban fantasy, of course, but the actual experiences of the character PoV in magical realism tales are more deeply explored, I think. Hey, for all I know I could be talking out of my ass, but if you’re looking for more YA magical realism books to read, here are some of the ones that I’ve enjoyed reading!




** Chime by Franny Billingsley.

Chime is the story of a girl whose life turns upside down once a new boy comes to her witch-intolerant village swamp, because his presence helps to reveal long-lost secrets. It’s cyclical and beautifully written, and the swamp – here’s another magical realism quality! The setting is almost ALWAYS its own character! Which should happen in most books anyways, but can be critical to magical realism – the swamp is its own character. You get fantastic new magical creatures in the swamp, and Briony’s coming-of-age and sexual awakening are twined together so beautifully in her quest for the truth. Highly recommended! The writing style might throw some people off, but stick with the book and you’ll be so rewarded!

** We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

We Were Liars is the story of a girl who no longer remembers the tragedy that happened at her family's summer home but seeks to discover the truth behind all the lies.. The details of her fifteenth summer at her family's private island elude her, and her family is reluctant to talk about what exactly happened. Her quest for the truth is interspersed with fairy tale like stories about her family and her memories of their summers at their island retreat. It’s a beautifully written suspense story on grief, privilege, family, duty, friendships, and much, much more.

(Is WWL technically Magical Realism? Or is it more speculative? It could just be considered contemporary, but given the above definition, I think it still fits into magical realism.)

** The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle.

First off: if you’re a fan of We Were Liars, definitely check out The Accident Season. Set in Ireland, The Accident Season is the story of a family plagued by “accident seasons” – they fall down; they bruise; their bones break. Is everything that happens in The Accident Season truly an accident, or is there something more sinister going on? Like We Were Liars, The Accident Season is beautifully written, full of atmosphere, and it centers on family, grief, truths and more as well.

** Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.

Bone Gap is the story of Rosa, a girl who suddenly appears in Finn’s life and then just as suddenly goes missing, and Finn, a boy who witnesses Rosa getting kidnapped but who isn’t believed in town because everyone thinks he’s weird and maybe a little unstable. The story takes place in a town where again! Setting is its own character. People can go missing in the “gaps” of the town, all the corn fields… What really happened the day that Rosa went missing is up for the both characters to discover. Laura Ruby really does a wonderful job developing the setting and making the people of Bone Gap feel unique to Bone Gap (but also familiar to us). The story does a great job examining the construct of beauty and perception, and is unlike anything I’ve read in YA (despite me lumping it in here with other magical realism books).

** The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma & Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.

The Walls around Us and Imaginary Girls are the two Nova Ren Suma novels that I’ve read, but they definitely won’t be the last. The Walls around Us was described as Orange is the New Black Swan, and I think that’s a perfect description—and yes, the book focuses on girls, jealousies, intimacies, and more. Imaginary Girls is the story of a girl sent away from her sister when she discovers a body in their town’s reservoir. When she returns to her sister, certain secrets will be revealed. Nova Ren Suma writes gorgeous, atmospheric stories that are about and told in the voices of girls, and both of these are no exception to her list of highly recommended reads.

** Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block.

Love in the Time of Global Warming is a YA magical realism post-apocalyptic retelling of The Odyssey told from Penelope’s point of view. Francesca Lia Block’s writing is as always incandescent, proving why she’s one of the founders of YA. Reading this made me want to go back and reread The Odyssey, which I think is always a sign of success for a retelling—rekindling or stirring new interest in the classic.

** The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater & The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.

I don’t even know whether to consider either of these novels magical realism. Some part of me wants to classify The Scorpio Races as a high fantasy because it takes place on a fictional island, and so the society is also modeled after ours but is its own thing. But The Scorpio Races is also written in a way that reminds me of magical realism novels. The Raven Cycle could also be categorized as urban fantasy or just fantasy, but looking at the definition for magical realism, hey, the series could fit too. Plus part of that dreamy atmosphere, again, makes me think of magical realism novels. Oh, genre categories.

Every November on the fictional island of Thisby, its inhabitants compete in a dangerous race riding legendary, deadly water horses. The Scorpio Races is a standalone filled with magic, adventure, and romance—and is unlike anything I’ve read in YA. The Raven Cycle is a tad harder to describe. One of the main characters, Blue, has been told all her life that if she kisses her true love, he will die. It’s implied that Gansey is her true love, and she ends up getting caught in Gansey’s quest to find Glendower, a mythical sleeping Welsh King who’s supposed to grant a wish to whoever wakes him up. A very bare bones sort of intro summary—but anyway, the books have multi-layered, complex characters, unpredictable, complicated plots… magic, adventure, atmosphere, romance. I talk on and on about these books, so get to reading them if you haven’t already!

Those are my YA magical realism novel recommendations. One I’m looking forward to reading this year is A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry, which made my 2016 YA Debuts on my TBR list. Let me know if you’ve got any other recs! Have you read any of the books I recommended? Is magical realism your “thing”?
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review 2015-05-26 04:27
Magical realism? WTF was this book
Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma

I didn't really get it. I didn't really like it. To my mind the weakest of her books. Not a patch on the other two.

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text 2015-05-25 20:38
Reading progress update: I've read 48%.
Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma

This is the last of Nova Ren Suma's novels that I haven't already read. It was her first book - I read them out of order: 2, 3, 1.


This is right in her wheelhouse, with two sisters and something going on that the reader doesn't completely understand. 

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review 2015-04-06 11:43
So i read this last year and never got around to typing up my review. Random guess I'm going to rate it 3 stars.
Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma

Opening sentence: Ruby said I'd never drown - not in deep ocean, not by shipwreck, not even by falling drunk in someone's pool.



Well that was bizarre and not at all like i expected. still really good read though. I kind of felt like this book or should i say writing enchanted me, I just wanted, needed to keep reading it, to find out all its secrets, what really happened. Even though this book was filled with stuff that should of been entirely boring i wasn't in the slightest bored. I suppose thats what good writers do, they suck you in no matter whats written on the pages.


The characters were....interesting and to me really American. similar to what i would picture bumpkin american's to be like without the extreme stereotype's.


The ending was not quite what i expected, we were lead at every turn, and even though i knew this book was fiction, for some strange reason i expected it to be written more like non-fiction. but i suppose the younger sister, our protagonist, Chloe has cracked and isn't telling us (the readers) the truth. throughout the book she clearly wasn't a very reliable narrator, so its hard to tell.


Either way i rather enjoyed myself, I'm pleased I randomly stumbled across Imaginary Girls and decided to read it.


Great cover by the way - doesn't completely fit in with the story line but its good. 



Random Quote i enjoyed:


"I looked up into the sky, and her balloons were everywhere, it seemed, the air marred with bloody streaks and littered with demands, and nothing and no one could stop them from coming."

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