Book Review: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma


This is less a book review and more an author review.

In January, I read The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. It was amazing. As I said in my review on Goodreads, I never expected to like the book as much as I did. I don’t choose to read books about ballerinas and I’m generally not interested in prison stories. But The Walls Around Us, which is both a ballerina story and a prison story, gripped me from the first page and never let me go. It was Suma’s writing that drew me in. So poetic. So magical. Her method of weaving the different character’s stories together was flawless.

I don’t know how many people I’ve recommended this book to in the last six months. I think I even recommended it to some people twice. (Yes, I see many of you nodding.) I can’t help it. The book stayed with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So the day I recommended it to a writer friend and she said, “Yeah, isn’t it good? Although I liked her first book even better,” I did a double take. What? No. Impossible. The idea that the author could have written something better than The Walls Around Us even earlier in her writing career? I couldn’t believe it. I refused to. Then I realized I was being stupid and bought Imaginary Girls. Just, you know, to prove my friend wrong.

Power in Every Sentence

I read the book in four days. The day I opened it, I read over a hundred pages before sleep claimed me. The first thing I did the next morning was pick up where I left off. I feel like I deserve a medal for every chore I accomplished, errand I ran, and meal I ate during those four days. That’s how hard it was to put the book down.

Summary of Imaginary Girls from Goodreads:

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.

Imaginary Girls is a sister story, but it is also so much more. The summary really can’t capture the magic of the book—neither the actual magic threaded through the novel, nor the magic of Suma’s voice and style. There is power in every sentence of her writing. She is a master of moving the story forward with every word, of telling the reader just enough to keep us reading and leaving out the unnecessary bits that we don’t need to know.

Here is one tiny example from page 102:

“They waited for the late hour to do their looking. Tonight I wondered how many of them were here. Maybe they formed a chain from the rocky bottom, locking webbed fingers to slippery wrists, lifting the lightest one to the top, where the water broke open and the air got them gasping and Pete’s car could be made out on the hill.”

This paragraph says so little, but conjures so much, more I think than would have been achieved by adding more description.

I Believe

This book involves casual magic and supernatural powers and underwater towns, and I believed every word of it. At this point, I think Nova Ren Suma could tell me anything and I would believe her. I’m convinced that, like some of her characters, she must have magical powers too. Thankfully, she uses them for good, crafting absolutely stunning prose.

To sum up, I owe my friend a big thanks and a cup of coffee for recommending Imaginary Girls to me. However, I won’t go so far as to say she was RIGHT because I think Imaginary Girls and The Walls Around Us are equally phenomenal. 🙂

At this point, I will read anything Nova Ren Suma writes. If you enjoy magical, poetic, intensely engaging YA novels, you should too. Here’s the link to her books on Amazon. I just ordered 17 & Gone.

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BONUS MATERIAL: Read Nova Ren Suma’s blog post about the writing of The Walls Around Us here.

Published by Carie Juettner

Carie Juettner is a former middle school teacher and the author of The Ghostly Tales of New England, The Ghostly Tales of Austin, The Ghostly Tales of Burlington, and The Ghostly Tales of Dallas in the Spooky America series by Arcadia Publishing. Her poems and short stories have appeared in publications such as The Twin Bill, Nature Futures, and Daily Science Fiction. Carie lives in Richardson, Texas, with her husband and pets. She was born on Halloween, and her favorite color is purple.

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