In 1973, Gabby Duncan is on track to escape her bucolic hometown of Haven Ridge, Pennsylvania. Gifted with a scholarship to Boston University and slated to be co-valedictorian, she’s cutting ties and backing away from most of her friendships except for Max, Steve, and Tony, three neighborhood boys who have been part of her life for as long as she can remember. Gabby’s last few months of high school should be easy and breezy, but she gets derailed when Joyce Patterson, her academic rival, decides to be the only valedictorian and sets out to make the rest of Gabby’s senior year a living hell. Gabby could handle that, but her English teacher has just given the class a major assignment: write an essay about the watershed moment in their lives. The last thing Gabby wants to do is relive the summer of 1967, when she spent her last year as a child, riding her bike and playing an invented game called Imaginary House. Her days then were happy until her town and world turned upside down.
Now Gabby will have to wind her way through that summer, remembering events and people she’d rather forget, particularly Pete Steinmetz, the boy she's buried so deep she fears bringing his memory to light. As she revisits her past, she’s forced to remember how her perceptions of life fell apart, how her trust in people evaporated, and how the thrill of young love died before it had a chance to blossom. She also must face why she clings so closely to her three male friends and why bad boy Tony, who shadows her like a fleeting promise, makes her feel things she’d rather not feel. Mostly though she’ll have to once again face what she's tried to forget: that most people live in imaginary houses and lead imaginary lives that hold very little outward truth and often a great deal of pain.
Imaginary Houses is a coming-of-age story that blends real-life issues and bittersweet young love with the joys and innocence of childhood, shifting between Gabby’s 1973 present and her twelve-year-old life in 1967.