Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Imaginary Girls

I don't know how this excellent, eerie novel escaped my notice for so long.  Once I started reading I was mesmerized.  Perhaps its the power one of the main characters, Ruby, holds over everyone who encounters her, extending to the reader.

Ruby is a character you won't forget.  Beautiful, unique, Ruby has the ability to get what she wants, from whomever she wants it.  At first the reader takes her for another queen bee, a charmer and manipulator of extreme ability, but as the book progresses, it becomes clear that she's more than simply persuasive.  She's powerful.  Ruby hold sway over the boys in her small town who fall instantly in love with her--that's a given--but her power extends further.  No one seems able to resist her will, especially not her baby sister, Chloe, whom Ruby claimed as her own from the moment she was born.  As the book opens, Ruby asks her sister to prove herself by swimming all the way across the town reservoir, where a group of kids has gathered for a night party. The reservoir has a haunted history.  Years ago a flood drowned an entire town, a place called Olive, and in Ruby's wild. fanciful stories, the people of Olive still exist beneath the water, looking up and watching the residents on the land.  When Chloe starts to swim across, she almost doesn't make it.  She imagines a cold spot in the middle of the water, right over Olive, exactly where she runs out of energy and almost drowns.  But luck is with Chloe and she manages to grab onto a rowboat bobbing in the reservoir.  Chloe doesn't die, but someone else does that night.  There's a body in the boat, and Chloe is so traumatized by the sight of a dead girl her own age and the fact that her sister didn't protect her when it mattered most that she does the unthinkable.

She leaves.

Just like that, Chloe breaks the bond between herself and her sister.  They've been inseparable all their lives, but trauma pushes her to the home of her father, away from Ruby.  There life is ordinary, until Ruby appears two years later and urges her sister back home.  Ruby has a chilling surprise for her sister, and before she knows it, Chloe is back in her sister's web of power, shocked and frightened by what Ruby has managed to summon.

This book is a must-read for lovers of the eerie.  More than a simple horror story,  Imaginary Girls, is also the story of sisterhood, love, and power.   The author tells her tale in gorgeous language, with a storytelling power that one can describe as Ruby-esque  itself.

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