Review: Just One Day

Just One Day by Gayle Forman. Dutton Books, a member of Penguin Books. 2013. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: Allyson Healey is on a trip to Europe, a special present from her parents for having done so well in high school. She, along with her best friend, are on a Teen Tour, speeding from one place to another.

A chance meeting with a young Dutch actor leads to an uncharacterstic for Allyson whirlwind day in Paris. When he disappears after they spend the night together, she is heartbroken, returning home to college.

College is not what Allyson had hoped it would be; or, rather, it’s more what her parents had planned than what Allyson wants.

What does Allyson want? As Allyson tries to figure that out, she realizes she needs to go back to her worst, and best, day ever and find out what really happened.

The Good: Allyson! Oh, Allyson. I cannot tell you how much I adored Allyson.

Why? Because she is so real: she is young, and immature, and unsure, and doesn’t realize it. As I read this, and saw just how distanced Allyson was from herself, it almost hurt in it’s truth and rawness.

Allyson may be a high school graduate, but she is one with parents so controlling that Allyson doesn’t realize she has never had the opportunity to be herself. To figure out who she is or what she wants. Part of it is because Allyson is an only child; part of it is because she has the ultimate helicopter parents; and part of it is because Allyson has always been the good daughter and doesn’t realize that this type of “good” isn’t doing anyone, including herself, any good.

Some examples: the unasked for gift of a trip to Europe. Allyson is grateful, of course; but it’s not anything she asked for, or said she wanted, or had any input in. Her parents have decided Allyson wants to be a doctor, so her college courses are selected by them to make that happen. Her mother sees clothes she thinks are perfect for Allyson and buys them for her.

And yes, Allyson is lucky and fortunate to have the opportunities, to have the things, but the one thing she doesn’t have? Is herself. The last day of her trip, that spontaneous day with Willem, was the first time she began to think of herself, of what she wants to do or likes.

When Allyson gets to college, it doesn’t go well. She doesn’t really make friends, she doesn’t do well in her classes, she doesn’t decorate her dorm room. Part of it is depression, part of it is being lonely, part of it is starting to realize that how her parents have defined her is not who she is — and for that last part, she doesn’t know it. She doesn’t know that is why she doesn’t decorate her dorm room with the things they have selected, why she cannot bring herself to care about the classes they have selected. Part of it is Willem’s rejection of her has hurt her deeply. Now at college, she doesn’t quite know how to connect or make a friend.

Thanks to a college counselor, who has seen other students like Allyson, Allyson begins to figure out who she is, what she likes, what she wants. I love this — a true “coming of age” book. It’s not crisp and clean and easy. Sometimes, when I’ve read one too many young adult books in a row, I wonder at just how many of these teen characters have their acts together when in “real life” the process of becoming oneself takes much longer. Just One Day takes a clearer, more honest, true look at that process.

Willem’s role in Allyson’s journey is important because his disappearance is part of what pushes her. It’s a puzzle to be solved; it’s a mystery to be answered; and, yes, it’s a person she wants to find because their connection was real and true. Or, at least, it was to her.

If you’re wondering why, in the age of Google, it was easy for Willem to disappear from Allyson’s life. She didn’t have a cell phone (or, rather, hers wasn’t working properly in Europe.) Willem early on gave Allyson a nickname, Lulu, and didn’t know her real name. Allyson didn’t know his last name. Allyson at first was too hurt and embarrassed by his leaving her to look for him. (I’m sure other reviews will go on and on about the love story here, but to me, the more fascinating story is Allyson’s own personal growth.)

What else? Allyson’s high school best friend, Mel, is similar to Allyson, except Mel is more deliberate and knowing in her own journey to figuring out who she is. It’s interesting to see Mel pop up every few months, to see what Mel is “trying on” in terms of hair and clothes and music. I also think most adults know, from the first time that Mel is introduced, that this is the type of high school friendship that probably won’t survive college.

Allyson’s mother. I tried really, really hard not to hate Allyson’s mother. It’s her mother, more than her father, who dictates Allyson’s choices. She’s doing it out of love, yes, but it turns out there is more than that. Enough for my hate to be softened with pity. Allyson’s grandmother — her mother’s mother — also shows up, during a holiday, and WOWZA. There are some real family dynamics here, and by “real” I mean people pushing each other’s buttons.

Because it’s a realistic look at how some teens experience their first year of college. Because, even when it was the Teen Tour, but more so when it was not,  I loved the parts where Allyson traveled. Because of who Allyson is becoming and her bravery in picking something other than the safe path of her parents’ expectations. For the friends she meets along the way. Because I love Allyson, in all her awkwardness and innocence, this is a Best Book Read in 2013.

I am also eager to read the sequel/companion book, Just One Year, which will be from Willem’s point of view. Since I view Willem as more of a necessary catalyst to Allyson’s growth than a love interest, I’m eager to see what that book will be like and how it may change my perception of Allyson.

Other reviews: Alexa Loves Books; Smash Attack Reads; Queen Ella Bee Reads; Stacked.

 

 

 

 

Review: 17 and Gone

Last week, I reviewed 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma (Dutton, 2013).

That review was for people who, well, don’t want to know too much about a book going in. So, short version of 17 & Gone for those readers is that Lauren is seeing ghosts, including a girl who may still be alive, and is that girl alive and why is Lauren seeing these ghosts?

This review is for people who don’t mind learning the why Lauren is seeing ghosts; and for the people who have readers who may not want to read the ghost-mystery book but, well, would want to read 17 & Gone based on that why.

Spoilers.

Ready?

Lauren has schizophrenia. 17 & Gone is about Lauren beginning to to have the symptoms, but, of course, she doesn’t know. The same way that anyone wouldn’t know. So, what she sees, and what she hears, and what she begins to get obsessive about, she interprets as ghosts. She believes that these voices are the girls; she believes the things they tell her are their true stories. The other things that she sees or experiences she believes are all related to that haunting.

I love how Suma does this; how we only known Lauren as her symptoms begin so we follow that gradual slope that she does, so it’s never a lot she has to process but a slow buildup of many things. By the time she begins to think her mother may not be her mother, by the time of blood and knives and fires, it all seems to make sense — just as it makes sense to Lauren.

I love how there a few hints that this is not Ghost Whisperer for teens; aside from the obvious, the tone and increased feeling of things not being settled. The timing seems a bit off; not that it’s wrong, but there is something a bit disjointed and jumpy in what and how and when Lauren is telling us things.

Lauren’s mother is a single parent, and when I read that her father had left and may be homeless I wondered. Later, it turns out that he, also, may have schizophrenia. Is this why Lauren’s mother is working towards a degree in psychology?

See why I was torn about how to describe and discuss this? Because much as some readers are going to want to discover this on their own, there will be others who are looking for books about teens and mental illness and because of that, will want to read 17 & Gone.

Review: 17 and Gone

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2013. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: Lauren’s beat up old van breaks down on a snowy day on the way to school, and because of that, she sees the missing poster she must have passed day after day after day. Abigail Sinclair. Seventeen, like Lauren. Missing from the summer camp where she was working. Something pulls Lauren out of the van, across the street, to the poster, to Abigail, to Abby’s story. It’s not until the van is fixed and Lauren is parking in the school parking lot that she looks at the rearview mirror and sees Abby. In the mirror. In her car. And suddenly Lauren knows more than any missing poster could ever tell her.

Lauren is being haunted by Abby, but she couldn’t tell you whether that means Abby is alive or dead. Lauren just knows Abby is missing, and there is more to her story than the poster tells, and that Abby wants answers and wants to be found.

And it turns out — it’s not just Abby who is haunting Lauren. Once Abby finds Lauren, once Lauren thinks, here is a girl who is just 17 and she is missing, she is gone, Lauren starts realizing there are many more girls who are 17 and go missing. She finds their missing posters and they, like Abby, began to show up, to haunt her, to appear in her dreams.

Why is it that so many seventeen year olds disappear? Why are they coming to Lauren? And what happened to Abby?

The Good: This is both one of my Favorite Books of 2013 and one of the most difficult books of 2013 to talk about. Because of that, I’m splitting this into two blog posts. This one will be spoiler-free; the one I post next week won’t be.

While this is a bit mystery (what happened to Abby? can Lauren figure it out?) and a bit ghost story (all the girls that Lauren sees, the dream she has about them) this isn’t quite as simple as either a mystery or a ghost story. It’s not tidy; it’s not that linear. “Girls go missing every day,” Lauren realizes, and later says “I want to give warning, I want to give chase. I’d do it, too, if I thought someone would believe me.”

But warning about what? Chasing what? About Abby, or any of the girls, or about what seems to happen when a girl turns seventeen that makes that year the riskiest year of them all?

No matter how much [Abby’s] disappearance itched at me, tugging and not letting go, she wasn’t the only girl who wanted me to have her story. That’s the thing I’d soon discover. There were more. So many more. There were more lost girls out there than I’d ever imagined, and now they knew where to find me. Their whispers came from the shadows, the sound of so many voices more static than song.”

One of the first girls that appears to Lauren is Fiona Burke. Unlike Abby, or the other girls that will show themselves (Natalie, Shyann, Madison), Lauren knows Fiona. Or knew her. Fiona disappeared when she was 17; Lauren was only eight at the time. Fiona was her next door neighbor, and Lauren’s memories of Fiona mix with what she sees of the teenage girl who appears now to her. Does 17 mean something special to Lauren because of Fiona’s disappearance all those years ago? Or is it something special because that is how old Lauren is now? Is that what connects her to all these girls who went missing at 17? Is that what makes it easy for these ghosts to connect to her?

Whatever the reasons, they connection is made and Lauren knows she cannot tell anyone because who would believe her? It is quickly clear that she is the only one who sees this girls: not her mother, not her boyfriend, not her best friend, not any of the people at school. Just Lauren. Part of the reason I just loved 17 & Gone is how the author conveys Lauren’s point of view, her conviction, and why she does what she does in language that is almost foggy and never quite clear — much like how Lauren sees these girls. Here, for example, Lauren describing a setting: “The campground was buried in a valley of mosquitoes, pine treas, and poison oak, skirting the edge of a tepid lake.” It’s a language of belief rather than a language of questions; and so the reader believes what Lauren believes.

The resolution, the explanation of why Lauren sees these ghosts and why it matters that these are all girls who are 17 & gone, is shocking and at the same point makes perfect sense. Lauren’s story is told from a place of fragmentation and smoke; and then it clears. While Lauren says early on, “this was before I shattered into the particles and pieces I’m in now,” when was Lauren whole? 17 & Gone begins with Lauren shattered by what she sees, by these girls, by her knowledge that “girls go missing every day. They slip out bedroom windows and into strange cars. They leave good-bye notes or they don’t get a chance to tell anyone.” And this “go missing” is both a metaphor by the child who goes missing because the teen is becoming an adult and also solidly real: Abby is a real person who went missing, as was Fiona, as are the other girls who haunt Lauren. It’s not just about road from childhood to adulthood.

What else do I want to say in this post? I adored the portrait of Lauren’s mother. Forget everything else: Lauren’s mother is tattooed (I know!) and is working at a local university while pursuing her degree. Before she got this job she was a “dancer.” The two of them live in a carriage house on a bigger property. Mix that all together, and you have a very working class family in a richer neighborhood, with a woman making sacrifices for herself, her daughter, and their future. While this woman was well-drawn, she never became front and center. This was always Lauren’s story.

17 & Gone is a Favorite Book for 2013 — because Lauren’s voice is so strong and true. Because Nova Ren Suma’s writing is such that I quoted it again and again in my reading journal. Because while it’s not a linear mystery, it is a mystery — two actually, both what happened to Abby and why is it that these ghosts appear to Lauren? — and both mysteries are resolved, satisfactory and breathtakingly, in the pages of 17 & Gone. And because of how those mysteries are resolved, which warrant an entire post next week.

Other reviews  — which, warning, are more spoilery than here. Leila Roy (bookshelves of doom) at Kirkus; Stacked; crossreferencing.

 

 

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. Dutton, a member of Penguin Group USA. 2011. Personal copy. Companion to Anna and the French Kiss.

The Plot: Seventeen year old Dolores “Lola” Nolan has a pretty good life. Her two dads, Nathan and Andy, are super supportive even if they are over protective and a bit stricter than other people’s parents. Lola has a terrific best friend, Lindsey; a hot, rocker boyfriend, Max; a job she likes; and a passion — clothes and costume design — that she wears everyday.

Then HE moves back in next door. Cricket, the boy next door. Who broke her heart years ago and moved away. Now she has to see him every day. Lola begins to reluctantly acknowledge that she still may have feelings for Cricket. What about her boyfriend, Max? What about her future plans?

The Good: Lola and the Boy Next Door is another terrific teen romance from Stephanie Perkins. It’s a companion to Anna and the French Kiss; more about that later. And, just to be clear, as the title promises, the romance is between Lola and her next door neighbor, Cricket.

Lola’s boyfriend at the start of the book is Max, and Max is an appealing boyfriend on paper. Look a little deeper, though, and something seems off. What I love is how Perkins, who tells this from Lola’s perspective, has the reader come to the realization along with Lola that Max is not all that and a bag of chips. This is not a book where from the first page I wanted to say, “Lola, what are you thinking?” Yes, Max is older, 22. Yes, he’s the musician to her high school student. But, it shows Max going along with all the rules her parents have put in place because of the age difference, including a weekly Sunday Brunch. It’s only as time goes by that the reader — and Lola — discovers that Max isn’t happy about that, not at all.

I know some people may be thinking “triangle! cheating!” As with Anna and the French Kiss, Perkins handles this aspect very gracefully and respectfully, and I won’t reveal all. Lola and the Boy Next Door addresses some complex emotions: having feelings for two different people; trying to sort out what one really feels versus what one wants to feels; and learning how to read a situation. (All I’ll say is one good lesson to learn: if your best friend doesn’t get along with your boyfriend, take that seriously and don’t dismiss it.)

Because of Lola’s anger from what happened a few years back, and because of her current boyfriend, Max, Lola and Cricket’s relationship progresses slowly. A friendship is discovered, or, rather, rediscovered, and here, also, the contrast between Cricket and Max is made apparent slowly. Another lesson to learn:  not a good sign if your boyfriend doesn’t want to hang out with any of your friends.are

In addition to the fun, sometimes flirty, often awkward, but ultimately hopeful and healthy relationship that develops between Lola and Cricket, the strength of this book is the supporting cast of characters. Anna and St. Clair appear, and they are just the type of couple you’d hope they’d be.

Cricket is as fashion-aware as Lola is (did I mention that Lola’s mantra is “I don’t believe in fashion, I believe in costume“?) Lola doesn’t just read fashion magazines and buy clothes; she makes her own clothes. I’m not a fashion person, but I adored the descriptions of Lola’s clothes and how she basically wore her heart, her mind, her soul on her sleeve. Whether whimsical or depressed, her outside reflects her character.

Cricket’s sister, Calliope, is an Olympic level figure skater, and that’s not just some throwaway make her interesting tidbit. The practice, expense, and dedication that level of athletic training requires of the whole family is shown; and  yes, it ends up tying back to Lola herself.

Lola’s family is complicated. Not because she has two dads. Lola references their strictness, and it’s clear they don’t like Max but also don’t want to do anything that pushes Lola away and pushes her towards Max. They are supporting and loving. What is complicated is that her biological mother is the sister of one of her father’s.

As with Paris in Anna, place matters: here, it is San Francisco. Instead of someone discovering a city, it’s about a girl whose city is her place, who knows that city better than she knows herself. And given what Lola needs to realize about herself, Max, and Cricket, that’s quite true.

Other reviews: Librarian by Day; Reading Rants; GalleySmith; Youth Services Corner.

Review: Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield. Dutton Books, a member of Penguin Group USA. 2012. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: The night of graduation, Rebecca’s boyfriend James breaks up with her. It’s a preemptive move; Rebecca, school salutatorian, is headed off to college when summer is over. James, drop out, is staying behind in their small town.

The next day, not far from the field where James told Rebecca it’s over, a body of a young woman is found.

No one knows it yet, but it’s Amelia Anne Richardson.

Two stories are entwined: that of Rebecca’s summer after high school. She is desperate to leave behind her small town and their small minds, yet doesn’t want to lose James. Amelia’s story is that of the months before her body is found: a college senior just discovering a whole new world, a world she cannot wait to enter.

Amelia’s story ends one way. How will Rebecca’s story end?

The Good: Dual stories! Love it. “The night before Amelia Anne Richardson bled her life away on a parched dirt road outside of town, I bled out my dignity in the back of a pickup truck under a star-pricked sky.”

Rebecca is a girl trapped in her small town, who has always been crystal clear about what she wants: to leave. “Trapped” is a strong word: it’s the town where her parents live, no more or less, and they are supportive of her dreams for college. There is no pressure from them to stay or to return. When I first began reading, I wasn’t sure what to make of James; it’s the night of graduation and James breaks up with her right after they have sex. Already, in my head, I painted a picture of James as mean, or cruel, or abusive; and Rebecca as dating a local boy just “for now,” with hurt feelings and pride, no more, no less.

I was wrong. Rebecca loves James; he loves her. The break up was more a declaration, by James, that he knows she is going to be leaving him behind come Fall and become that guy, that high school boyfriend left behind in the rear view mirror. Rebecca isn’t stupid; she realizes that, also, and it’s colored some of her interactions with James in the past year. She wants to go; she doesn’t want to lose James. He doesn’t want to hold her back; he doesn’t want to lose her. For various reasons, he is stuck in the town with no choice about his future. The knowledge this is the last summer haunts every moment together or apart, as, too, does the dead girl haunt Rebecca.

The reader knows her name, Amelia Anne Richardson. The reader knows her story. In some ways, it’s similar to Rebecca’s own story. Amelia, at college, is discovering a new path for herself, acting, not business, and it opens up a world and future she didn’t even realize she wanted. Like Rebecca, she will be leaving something known behind. Like Rebecca, there is a boyfriend, and this young man, like James, realizes that his girlfriend’s dreams may not include him. The main difference is that Amelia is so eager to have her life start, while, suddenly, Rebecca — I don’t want to say she isn’t sure. She wants to go. She just seems to be putting herself into a type of emotional limbo. It’s as if she realizes that her childhood is being left behind, and suddenly, she doesn’t want that to happen.

Rebecca is an interesting character; as I said, for some reason, at the beginning I didn’t realize the depth of her connection to James. Despite that, Rebecca wants to leave her small town and I liked that. Both Rebecca and Amelia are unapologetically ambitious in what they want to do. Here is Rebecca: “[I]t wasn’t just about getting away. It was about not coming back. It wasn’t just the size and sensibility of this place that made it unbearable, but its pull — the weird magnetism that could sap your ambition, clip your wings, leave you inert and fascinated and sinking ever deeper into the choking quicksand of small-town life.”  As the summer unwinds, as Rebecca faces some choices, I wondered — how much of what she does, or doesn’t do, is driven by this? About making sure she wouldn’t go back?

They mystery of the dead girl by the road; for most of the summer, not even her name is known. The reader knows more, knows her alive, knows her as Amelia, and as Amelia’s life moves to the time and place of her death, I kept wondering: who did she end up there? And why? Rebecca wonders about this dead girl, whose body was found not to far from where she and James were together. I had half-guessed parts of Amelia’s death; was surprised by others; and was also stunned by Rebecca’s role.

What I adored most about this book? The sentences; Rebecca’s observations; the way she told her story. “Innocence can only last so long, especially that kind that comes from growing up sheltered by quiet neighborhoods, immaculate concrete sidewalks, so much nothingness for miles around. . . . Same faces, same streets, day in and day out, eyes that never witness anything more desolate than those empty, gravel-strewn county roads.” Or, this: “our knowledge has no memory. We have always lived here; what we know has always beens.”

Because of the language; because of the complexity of James; because of Rebecca herself; this is a Favorite Book Read in 2012.

Review: Imaginary Girls

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. Dutton Books, a member of Penguin. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: Two years ago, Chloe and her older sister Ruby were at a party at the reservoir. Dares and drinking, one thing leads to another, and Chloe’s classmate London Hayes is dead and Chloe leaves town, leaves Ruby, and goes to live with her father out of state.

It’s two years later. Chloe is coming home; returning to the town she left, the friends she left, returning to her sister, Ruby.

Two years away, and something seems off. Not quite right. Something is different with the town, with Ruby. At a party, Chloe comes face to face with the biggest difference of all; with something that just shouldn’t be.

The Good: Oh, how to do this without spoilers! How to explain the spell of Ruby, the web she weaves around all who know her. To know her is to love her. And as I write this, trying to both explain the magic and wonder of this book without revealing too much, I find that all I can write about is Ruby. All I want to write about is Ruby.

Ruby is a magical older sister, almost mythical to her younger sister, Chloe. Zoey Deschanel would play Ruby in a movie, with her sundresses and boots, her big old Buick with the gas gage that always reads E yet always has a few extra miles left in her, ex-boyfriends ready to do any favor she asks, because, well, it’s Ruby. Some people are like that; charismatic, magnetic. Everyone loves Ruby. Best of all, Ruby loves Chloe. She includes Chloe in her circle, makes her part of it, whether its a circle of friends or of family (Ruby has practically raised Chloe).

When Ruby says something is possible, it is.  When Ruby says Chloe is capable of something, she is.

For two years, Chloe has missed having someone believe in her so deeply, support her so completely: “Ruby could turn me from an ordinary girl you wouldn’t look at twice into someone worth watching, someone special, mythical even.”

Who wouldn’t want a bond like Ruby and Chloe’s?

But now, two years later, something is off, with Ruby, with that bond. Ruby has a secret, a secret she’s keeping from Chloe. Even when Chloe thinks she knows what it is, she isn’t even close to the truth.

What more can I say, without ruining the wonder, the discovery?

One of the things I love about Stephen King is his tone, his use of place, his build up of suspense. Suma does all this: the slowly increasing sense of dread, the creation of the town and reservoir and Ruby’s half-finished house, and, finally, the suspense as Ruby’s secrets begin to unravel, begin to get out of control. My heart is still racing, my mind still whirring, as I realize Ruby’s secrets. Once I knew (or, rather, thought I knew), I got to the last page and then turned to the first page and —  What would I see in the beginning, that would point the way to where Imaginary Girls goes? Or would I see something else? To be able to do that, to have a the book start as one thing, end as another, be both at the same time, is pretty fine writing. When I reread it, I saw so many clues, yet didn’t pick up on them the first time. Or, maybe I did, and that explained the growing sense of unease as I read.

Suma builds up the tension of what is happening in Chloe’s hometown, and at the same time shows this tight, amazing, bond between two sisters that makes the reader think, I want that. Ruby doesn’t see her life as one stuck taking care of her baby sister because her mother is the town drunk and their respective fathers skipped out long ago. Ruby instead has created a life for herself, and for her sister — before she went away — a life of watching movies, roller skating, hanging out at the Village Green, a life where each of those things is infused with fun. Ruby is the sister who texts, “my boots miss your feet” and “my head misses your hairbrush.” Ruby has a way of looking at the world; when Ruby decides a boy isn’t right for Chloe, she says, “Owen is too pretty. . . . There’s something ugly about a pretty boy who knows he’s pretty and assumes everyone else knows it, too.”  Ruby is the type of girl who, when she says she wants cheesecake from a certain restaurant hours away, the guy will drive to get it for her.

What does it mean to Chloe to have Ruby in her life? It means living a life that is a story worth telling. Without Ruby, life is ordinary. Even as the web of Ruby’s wonderfulness is spun, Suma builds the suspense. Something is not quite right. Ruby is hiding something; Ruby is different from what Chloe remembers. Little things strike the reader, like how Ruby doesn’t like to leave the town limits, and doesn’t want Chloe to, either. How Ruby lives in sight of the Reservoir, but puts Chloe in the only room without a view. How Ruby disappears.

The town, a town next to a reservoir, a live town next to a dead drowned town, because when the reservoir was created generations ago it killed the towns in its way. The people were told to leave, but Ruby whispers stories about the people who refused to leave their homes. It is a nameless town next to a dead town with a name; nameless tourists visit the Village Green. The town is special only because Ruby is there. And the reader has to understand just who Ruby is and what she means to Chloe, to understand why Chloe returns home . . . and why after she comes face to face with what is happening in town, she stays. A reader has to understand Ruby to understand what happens in town.

While reading Imaginary Girls, I though of people I’ve known like Ruby. The charismatic person that everyone wants to be around. But the further I read, the more I realized… I’ve never met anyone quite like her.

For other reviews, and to see how others address how to review this book without revealing all the secrets of Chloe, Ruby, their town and their friends — and to see some different views of Ruby:

The Book Smugglers: “Imaginary Girls is very creepy, uncomfortable and disturbing. In fact, it reads a lot like a Twilight Zone episode.” That gives a little bit away about what happens . . . but hey, my referring to Stephen King is also a clue.

Stacked: “Nova Ren Suma has created a deliciously creepy book full of odd happenings all seen through a sort of haze. It’s difficult to get a handle on what’s really going on, because Chloe herself isn’t always sure. That aspect gives the book a feeling of magical realism rather than straight up fantasy or paranormal. And even though Imaginary Girls has elements of the paranormal, which can be found in so many current YA books, you’ll come away from it knowing you’ve really never read anything like it.”

GalleySmith: “If it felt like I was talking in circles in this review it’s because that is exactly how this book made me feel.  Upside down then right side up, all in the best possible way.  Suma is one of the few authors I’ve read that I wouldn’t fear stepping outside of my typical reading boundaries to get hold of her stories.  I’d read anything, anywhere, anytime if she wrote it.”

Because I still cannot get Ruby out of my head. Because Chloe haunts me. Because I’m not quite sure what did or did not happen. Because I could talk about this book all night, over glasses of wine, and then all morning, over cups of coffee. Because the writing wrapped around me like a blanket. This is a Favorite Book Read in 2011.

My last words: if you’ve read Imaginary Girls and want to talk about just what did, or did not, happen, chat away in the comments! The rest of you — you’ve been warned.