Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Rant: Imaginary Girls

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.

With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.

This book has gotten quite a lot of buzz in the blogosphere, so that last sentence wasn't kidding. But I gotta say up front, this book did not charm me the way it did for a variety of other people, so I'll be talking about that more than anything.

If you want to hear a positive spin on this book, there are plenty of reviews out there for that, and I don't disagree with them. The book's got great writing. Evidenced by the fact that I did, in fact, finish the book in a day and at no point felt like I should put it down, IMAGINARY GIRLS indeed delivers on being a page-turner.

However, there were a few things that just weren't my cup of tea about it. Before I begin though, I'm reiterating that my opinion is by far the minority. Most people are raving about this book. Don't let me deter you from trying it out if you want to. Also, I admit the title and cover are awesome.

Other people who weren't so enamored mentioned this too: I despised all the characters, especially Ruby. You don't need characters to be likable to be compulsively readable. Characters can be interesting and hated. But they need to be interesting. Chloe, the narrator, was just one sad sack of boring. It's neither new nor innovative to write about a pair of sisters, one who is weirdly and pathetically dependent on the other, who is usually bossy and overbearing. This book is about sisterhood, but it didn't give me anything fresh to chew on. Ruby was colorful, but at the same time, one-dimensional, but probably because Chloe is such a plodding narrator, she can't describe other people in a way that makes them seem more like actual humans rather than cardboard cutouts. And even though Chloe is obviously obsessed with her sister, I found nothing remotely redeeming about Ruby throughout the book. She is basically a bitch, and that's pretty much it. Not the interesting kind of bitch you want to watch out of entertainment, just the obnoxious kind you want to punch in the face and then have nothing to do with ever again.

And then, this book literally has no plot. I get that this book is literary. I like literary most of the time. I even get that this book is supposed to be about the sister-relationship, not about anything in particular that happens. But seriously, I felt like the entire time, I was just following annoying people around in their lives doing mundane activities. It was an atmospheric book, but it needed a little more oomph in terms of action. The point, for me, about reading a novel, is it's like real life except heightened and you cut out all the crap that isn't interesting. That's why scenes exist. IMAGINARY GIRLS is like an endless litany of daily routine. Don't like.

It's too repetitive on several fronts. One of them, for example, that Chloe has an unhealthy attachment to Ruby and never thinks about anything else. We get endless description of how cool, how fascinating, how beautiful Ruby is, how everybody loves her, how people would take bullets for her, let her trample all over them, how she is the sun to everybody's candle flame, blah blah blah. Like, every page. I get it. No, really. I get it. 

The genre??? I have no idea. I am really bothered by this in a way that some people might not care. Is this paranormal? Is it contemporary? Is it mystery? Is it magical realism? Is it just batshit crazy? I don't know. And that drives me up a wall. Again, this is something that obviously other readers didn't care about.

Um, the ending, I cannot comprehend at all. There was zero payoff for me. I like open endings for the most part. But this was just so open that I had no sense of satisfaction, no closure whatsoever, and I didn't even feel like there was any character development. Things happened to the characters, they reacted, and they came out at the other end exactly the same as they were in the beginning. Arc? What? No spoilers, but man. If you like open endings, you could give it a try. If you don't, this is absolutely not for you. There are no answers, ever.

Final thoughts: The book is incredibly creepy. As I said before, it lends an excellent sense of atmosphere. It might even be scary if you let yourself think about it. It sure screws with your brain. If you want it to be a ghost story, you could let it be. If you want it to be a mystery/thriller, you could have that too. But for me, I felt like the blood and guts of the book were not enough to justify me reading hundreds of pages just for "a nicely realized atmosphere." If you want a great book that's both creepy and about an unhealthy sister-relationship, go read HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY by Audrey Niffenegger.

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