Genre: Magical Realism, Mystery, YA
Publication date: June 14th 2012
A beautiful and chilling story for fans of Lauren Oliver and Lisa McMann
Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be contained or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the 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 deeply hidden away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
I had heard that this was a strange book, but whoa! I do love weird, though. In a world where we get the same-old, same-old when it comes to books and movies, it’s refreshing to get a truly original idea. Something that breaks the mould and isn’t afraid to stand on its own.
Imaginary Girls is all about Ruby. Ruby is the girl no one seems to be able to say no to. She gets what she wants, when she wants it, no matter what. She has everyone tried around her fingers, and every boy stumbling over their feet to do her bidding. While this sounds like it could be a fairly annoying character – and to be honest it was at first – it’s also kind of fascinating. It’s made obvious that this… ability of hers is bizarre, unnatural. And the love she has for her sister borders on dangerous. I was definitely creeped out by her behaviour throughout. She comes off as a sort of beautiful, irresistible evil. Then we have Chloe who likes to believe she doesn’t always do as her sister asks, but she does. Because to Chloe, her sister is everything. She’s like a magical being and Chloe would do anything for her. Because that’s what sisters do.
Then we have a 3rd character who’s not a person, but a town called Olive that is now submerged under a reservoir. This town comes with a lot of old tales and legends, many told by Ruby. These stories are full of sadness and loss, but also of wonder and magic. Whether Chloe believes in her sister’s stories about Olive, there is no doubt something… alluring about the reservoir. It’s as if it was alive, as if people really still were living down there in a submerged town, going about their lives under water. Asking, demanding, calling out. It’s both mesmerizing and undeniably eerie. This atmosphere is brought to life with a writing style that is evocative and vivid. She can set a scene perfectly with wondrous imagery, and characters that come alive with a turn of the page.
As it can be with magical realism novels, many things are left to our imagination. I was expecting a twist that would make everything clear, give everything a reason, but there isn’t. You just have to accept this is what it is. In the end, I can’t say I was completely satisfied after turning the last page. Still, it’s the kind of ending that is full of hope, wonder, and shows the true meaning of unconditional love. So in a way, even if much of it remains a mystery, it’s quite beautiful, albeit in a sad way.