This book is more than a little hard for me to rate. It messed with my head, okay? It was short, as far as books go nowadays - barely more than two hundred pages - but seriously, I'm so weirded out and confused by this book, I might as well have been feeling its influence for months. So, instead of being coherent and intelligent and all that stuff, I'm going to just say what I liked and what I didn't.
The first thing was that I didn't like any of the characters. Any of them. At all.
There was just enough characterization for most of the characters, for me to tell I hated them all. London and Owen and Jonah and Sparrow and Pete - they were prime examples of how petty, selfish, whiny, bitter and stupid the human race can be. I just wanted them all to die. Chloe, the narrator, was like an especially brainless sheep. She let her sister lead her around by the nose, tuck her into bed at night, decide her diet. She practically allowed Ruby to choose her favorite colors and foods for her. She kept acting like she wasn't Ruby, could never be Ruby, didn't even want to be Ruby - but she clearly tried, at least a little, to be exactly like Ruby was. That drove me insane. Really, the only personality trait Chloe had was hero-worship for Ruby. Practically every sentence that came out of her had the words "Ruby" or "my sister" in it.
I just got really sick of hearing about Ruby, all right?
Ruby herself was....ehh, different. I hated her, too - she was self-obsessed and controlling and narcissistic and callous. She didn't care about anybody but Chloe. I always complain when a boyfriend is a control freak who would sacrifice the whole world for his girlfriend - I complain because I think the world is more important than one person's love life.
Because I think the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Because I believe that ignoring people and treating them like dirt is wrong, even if you're doing it because you love someone else.
Ruby pulled all the control-freak YA boyfriend clichés, except she loved her younger sister instead of her boyfriend - actually, her boyfriends were all people who she treated like dirt. Every time she ignored regular people or brushed them aside or kicked them away, I wanted to smack her. You don't win my sympathy by acting like an arrogant goddess with tunnel vision. Ever. I don't care how sweet you pretend to be or how willing they all are to trail after you like lost puppies - abusing their adoration and their feelings is wrong.
I hated Ruby, and I think that's really the reason why I didn't much enjoy this book. Because there were two hundred pages in the book, and probably a hundred and eighty of them were all spent on characterizing or worshiping Ruby.
Don't get me wrong, there were a few moments here or there where I actually liked the relationship between the sisters. Sometimes it was sweet. But I have a younger sister, and mostly Ruby horrifies me. If I ever started treating my sister the way Ruby treated Chloe, I'd want her to punch me and tell me to knock it off. I believe sisters can be different than each other. I believe they can keep secrets and choose for themselves and build their own lives without having their hands forced by the other. Sometimes I liked it when they were just hanging out, being friends and not talking about all the ways in which Ruby was a goddess.
Ruby was a good character, well-built and very realistic in her moods and opinions and speech patterns and stuff - all the characters were, I suppose, even those who barely had any personality. They were realistic. I just didn't like any of them.
Also, I find it hard to believe that Chloe could really narrate her entire story in such a poetic fashion. There were soooo many similies and comparisons and so much flowery language that it really felt jarring when Chloe would actually open her mouth in-story and say something regular and teenagery. Yeah, the writing was pretty a lot of the time, but Chloe's narration was more than a bit repetitive, and I'm sorry, but there were too many feathers and rainbows in it.
On a more positive note, Nova Ren Suma did accomplish the incredible feat of making me confused a lot of the time. It's rare when a book can actually confuse me nowadays, but even though I was mostly right (I think) by the end, I did actually have to form a few separate theories, which was nice.
I also enjoyed the mood of the book, the distant, ethereal-ish feel to it. It felt perfect for a creepy fairy tale and a watery grave. In some parts of the book I was sure I'd give it four stars even despite the characters, just because of the atmosphere - but then I'd hear about Ruby again and decide the book only deserved one star.
So here I am, and it gets two and a half stars because I loved some of it and hated some of it. It messed with my head. It gets points for that. It gets points for being like nothing else in the YA section, except maybe for Chime, by Franny Billingsley (which also messed with my head). It's not cliché, it's not predictable, and the ending is such a what-if masterpiece that I'm going to have to sit here and think about it and analyze it for quite some time yet.
Don't expect a solid answer to the mysteries - you're not going to get it. You're kind of going to be left hanging at the end. And don't expect a strong heroine who has a mind of her own, because Chloe really won't deliver. Just....don't have any expectations, actually. Don't listen to me. You'll probably have more fun reading this if you pick it up without any expectations. It's a weird book, and I don't know if I'll be recommending it to my friends, but I wouldn't advise them to not read it either.
If you read it, I hope you like it. That's all I can really say.