Genres: Young adult, mystery, contemporary.
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 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 home two years later, a precarious and deadly balance waits. 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 masterfully distorted vision of family reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, laced with twists that beg for their secrets to be kept.
I have an odd relationship with young adult realistic fiction. I keep on reading it although I often cannot relate to it. I think that, the majority of the time, teenage lives are portrayed best (but not necessarily more accurately) on television (e.g. Gilmore Girls, The OC, One Tree Hill… I do love American teen dramas). Imaginary Girls is the complete opposite in this respect and I think this is mainly because of the writing (and not necessarily the plot itself). I can’t imagine that television would be able to capture it very well. There are many beautifully written passages and sentences that I’d love to quote for you but because I read an uncorrected proof copy, this would be illegal unless I checked it against the finished copy, which I haven’t. You’ll just have to take my word for it. The writing isn’t particularly life changing and I don’t mean it’s beautiful in the sense that there are deeply inspiring thoughts, more that it uses metaphors that I wish I could use in real life without sounding pretentious and a little peculiar. The atmosphere also plays a massive part in the storyline and I often felt I was drowning whilst reading. I don’t think I’ll look at a reservoir (not that they’re a huge part of my daily life…) the same way ever again.
The sister relationship (between our two main characters – Ruby and Chloe) was something I cannot personally relate to and as much as I try, I cannot imagine. Ruby was not a favourite character of mine. She’s presented as this wonderfully, quirky, original personality whereas I found her to be extremely possessive, nasty and controlling. It’s probably one of the few times that I have been glad that I do not have a sister because I’d feel extremely letdown if I had one like Ruby. However, it’s not like the author believes that the relationship between the two girls is functional and positive, as you’ll realise as you read further. Ruby’s actually damaging to everyone around her. I saw Chloe’s as the stronger of the two girls. She’s not seen to be as ‘perfect’ or even as likeable but I really admired her maturity and ability to see what was really going on.
This leads on to the ‘main’ plot: “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”. This was slightly paranormal-y and fantasy-ish but in a way that I cannot explain. Is it a ghost story? Is it magic? Is everyone insane? I had no idea what was going on most of the time and unfortunately the complex situation it isn’t completely cleared up at the end. I still felt unsatisfied but overall, the eerie plot added intrigue to the story and I did have chills running down my spine at one point.
Imaginary Girls is an interesting blend of genres and I really enjoyed the mix. It was completely not what I expected at all but that only added to the excitement. I only wish the book gave more answers but overall I found it to be a thoroughly mesmerising read.
This book was obtained as an eGalley from Penguin.
My Rating: ★★★★