Sunday, March 22, 2015
Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Published Date: 24 March 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository
I received this book through NetGalley from Algonquin Young Readers for review.
“Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”
The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.
We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.
Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other. (summary from Goodreads)
The Walls Around Us is a beautiful, terrible, and haunting story of friendship, justice, truth and life after death. You won't want to put it down. Suma's words seep under your skin, twist up inside you, never to leave.
Originally I read the summary when requesting this book, but when I started to actually read it I'd completely forgotten. Rather than refresh my memory, however, I chose to just go with it and I do believe that partly impacted my reading experience. I almost didn't want to share the summary here and suggest people go into it blind. But truly, it's not a big deal. I just can't help but feel that this book is a little more haunting when putting the pieces together yourself as you read. It's only one small part of the story though. There is still more that will leave you questioning. Suma excels at giving just enough to make you think you've got the truth figured out before she pulls back to leave you wondering all over again. The entirety of this novel had me asking "Did she?", "Are they?", "Did that happen??", over and over again, and I love that while I'm satisfied I have the answers by the end, Suma's characters never outright, absolutely admit to their actions. It takes a unique skill in writing, and Suma has it in spades here. I imagine some might find it all a little confusing as the story flows back and forth, but it's worth it. Enjoy the turmoil!
Suma's prose is powerful and evocative, enthrallingly atmospheric, and I could go and on with the adjectives! Told in the alternating points of views of Amber and Violet, and alternating timelines, The Walls Around Us is ultimately the story of Ori, and Suma has created unforgettable characters and situations that tug at every one of your emotions. I was practically glued to the pages it's so captivating, and I gave more than a few glares and 'shoo' motions when interrupted - okay, possibly even some growls. It's just that good. Suma makes you feel for her characters. Even when I hated Violet - who's attitude had me wanting to lash out! - I sometimes felt bad for her. Trust me, that's a feat! I was so torn in regards to Amber; liking her and understanding her actions, but also scared of the depth of her rage and remorselessness. Ori is beautiful and kind, and your heart cries out at the unfairness of it all. This is a book that packs a whollop and leaves you breathless. It's setting, characters, atmosphere, conflicting timelines, and mysteries all work together to create a one of a kind narrative. Read it, feel it, love it.
I'm ashamed to admit The Walls Around Us is my first time reading Nova Ren Suma, but I'm going to be rectifying that. She is a master. I love this book.