Imaginary Girls

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Imaginary Girls Book Poster Image
Dark, disturbing psychological thriller for mature teens.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Mature teens who like the paranormal will enjoy reading this book -- and may be interested in other thrills and chills. See our recommended lists for more ideas.

Positive Messages

You can make an argument that there's a message here about the bond between sisters, left to fend for themselves when abandoned by adults, but it's a thin one. Cruelty and selfishness certainly go unrewarded in the end, but in the absence of any balancing message — no genuine kindness, friendship, or empathy — that point is almost irrelevant.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are no good role models here, and almost no competent adult figures at all. Ruby and Chloe, ignored by their parents, have a strong sisterly bond, but it's based as much on control and fear as it is on love. Their mother is an alcoholic who spends much of her time in a bar. They have diffe rent fathers; Chloe flees to her father's home for a few years, and he tries to enforce some behavioral rules. When Chloe runs away back home with Ruby, no adult makes much of an effort to track her down.


One teenager dies, perhaps at the hands of another, and another character is seriously injured in a car crash. Ruby exacts revenge by knowingly sending someone into a very risky situation that could kill him. There’s little overt violence, but a threatening tone carries through the book. Even when characters seem close and affectionate, there's an underlying meanness, a conditional aspect to the relationships. There are no consequences, aside from social repercussions.


There’s lots of mature content: Ruby is portrayed as a sex object, and it’s clear she’s had many sexual partners. Every interaction between male and female characters is presented through a prism of sexual tension and power dynamics. Chloe loses her virginity and has sex with another character, who then rejects her. There are casual references to people hooking up, and the female protagonists are constantly aware of leering male onlookers.


Strong language is peppered throughout, including "bitch," "s--t," "ho," "hell," and "f--k."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug and alcohol use is the focal point of every gathering of teens and young adults. Characters routinely drink and get high; Ruby drinks, though she doesn’t want Chloe to smoke or drink. Characters overdose, drink to the point of vomiting, and go to school under the influence of drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a dark, mature thriller best suited for well-grounded teens who enjoy tales with a paranormal touch. The characters inhabit a world devoid of responsible adults, and they seem to spend all their time drinking and eyeing each other warily (or greedily, when it comes to boys and girls). There is sex, drugs, swearing, and violence -- as well as menacing tone.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 17 years old Written byabbacus June 4, 2013

I'd pass........

I didn't like this book. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't really close to good either, in my opinion. It was weird and creepy and mysterious. I... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byAshabee April 18, 2012

Crazy good book!

This book is insanely wonderful, at the end I was begging for more! Definetly a good read, it'll leave teens breatheless. There isn't a single part in... Continue reading

What's the story?

The entire town seems to fall under the spell of Chloe’s beautiful older sister, Ruby. Chloe almost believes that Ruby can make anything happen just by willing it. When Ruby says Chloe can swim across the entire reservoir, Chloe gives it a try. But when she comes across the dead body of her classmate floating in the water, above the town flooded years ago to create the reservoir, she needs to get away from the trauma, from the reservoir, from her sister. Two years later, though, Ruby wants her back. And Ruby always gets what she wants … almost. To Chloe’s shock, the girl she found floating, lifeless, is now alive. She starts to wonder what, exactly, Ruby is up to.

Is it any good?

It’s nearly impossible to untangle what’s real and what’s imagined in this seductive thriller — just as Chloe has a hard time disentangling love from self-interest. Most of the characters are alternately cruel and callous, and humiliatingly cowed. Mature teens will appreciate this distorted world as the setting for a twisted tragedy. Lyrical writing, perfect details, and a teasing way with the truth make this an absorbing read, though the plot moves at a sometimes glacial pace and character motivation can be as murky as the menacing reservoir itself.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the mature material here. Are there any subjects or behaviors that would make a book off limits to teens? Who should decide what you get to read?

  • Sex is treated casually, with low expectations and disappointment. Do stories like this one promote casual sexual relationships -- or caution against them? For help with this conversation, take a look at our Sex and Media Tips.

Book details

  • Author: Nova Ren Suma
  • Genre: Horror
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Dutton Books
  • Publication date: June 14, 2011
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
  • Number of pages: 352
  • Last updated: June 20, 2019

Our editors recommend

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