Reviewed by Joe TaylorReview by Joe Taylor
IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma, 348 pages, $8.99

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren SumaChloe’s older sister Ruby has their town held in a spell. Every man wants her and she can have whatever she wants. She’s a woman of strong opinions and definite tastes, playing and sampling life’s delights, treating men like candies she throws back in the box after one bite. No one comes between Chloe and Ruby. But when a girl named London drowns after an apparent drug overdose, Chloe, who’s still a minor is taken away to live with her dad. Two year’s pass before Ruby swoops in to make life just like it was before Chloe was taken away.

And that’s the strange part. Things haven’t changed in their small upstate New York town. People who should be dead aren’t anymore, and Ruby is the only one in all of the sameness whose really changed. She’s more protective than ever, acting the way a mother might act with a nine year old rather than treat Chloe like she always did, like her partner in crime.

Looming over the sisters is the strange story of the Town of Olive which was inundated to create a reservoir to supply water to New York City. Ruby says some of the people of Olive refused to move and stayed there as the water covered their town. Ruby and Chloe have a relationship to that reservoir and the people of Olive like no other persons in town; as long as your not counting Chloe’s old school mate London as person that is.

Nova Ren Suma has written a tale that creeps up on the unsuspected reader with the gentleness of the tide at full moon. It’s horrors are below the surface of the reservoir, just out of sight, lapping at the consciousness of the reader, wet and cold and unsettling. The effect of Ms Suma’s writing might also be compared to wearing a soft silk shirt one begins to suspect was stolen from a corpse.

Her writing style is spare and sensitive, the actions of her character Ruby given paint and polish as her worshiping little sister describes all of her flamboyant idiosyncrasies, while the reader is let in by small measures on the fears that have rotted the woman’s heart. Ruby’s treatment of men is particularly disheartening. She does her best to make Chloe see men the way she does. And yet Ms Suma has managed to not let the story take the obvious turn of defiance that Chloe might have taken when she finds herself infatuated with a boy. Marvelously, boy infatuation isn’t the center of Chloe’s existence. She has her crush, but she has her strength too. She doesn’t hate men like her sister does, but she doesn’t need them like her sister does either. At last there is a female protagonist who can stand on her own without swooning into the arms of a man.

If there are any imperfections in this book they are so few and unimportant that they don’t even put a chip in the fifth star we’re giving this book. From the first sentence to the very moving last paragraph, this book has managed to be a work of art and a thrilling read at once. And brilliantly, for a change, there is no second book to make this one part of a series. This is all we get of this world. Nova Ren Suma knows how to torture us and make us love it. She giveth and she taketh away. It is a cruelty of a most delicious kind.
Yaroos! gives this book 5 Stars.
Joe Taylor