Chloe’s always admired her older sister, but when Ruby shows up with a girl who was dead the last time Chloe saw her, Chloe starts to fear that her sister can do anything–absolutely anything–she wants, no matter what Chloe or anybody else thinks about it.
Both Ruby and Chloe are compelling characters, for completely different reasons, and that’s what makes Imaginary Girls so successful. Ruby is obsessed with Olive, a town buried under a reservoir thanks to some eminent domain shenanigans in the early 20th Century. Chloe fears Olive, because she almost died in the reservoir, saved only by the timely appearance of a rowboat containing the dead body of London, a girl in Chloe’s class. Chloe left town, but when Ruby summons her back for the summer, Chloe is excited–until Ruby shows her London, who isn’t dead. She’s alive–and she shouldn’t be.
This is a wonderfully creepy premise, reminiscent of my favorite author Shirley Jackson, only with a YA touch. Ruby is so alive, such a vibrant and exciting character and it’s easy to see why the world seems to revolve around her. It’s impossible to imagine her as anything other than a beautiful teenager, at the peak of her life and beauty and power. She’s everything every girl wants to be, and Chloe loves that there’s no one on the planet whom Ruby loves the way she loves Chloe. The sisters build a world together, and it’s just about perfect, except for London, whose very existent freaks Chloe out and threatens the world that Ruby has created for them. Even though this is a contemporary story, set in summer sunshine among partying teens, this book is a classic Gothic story that hits all the right notes.