Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication date: March 24th 2015
Buy at: BookDepository
“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.
Do you feel like reading an out of the box book? A tale written in hauntingly beautiful prose? A story with grey protagonists and a disturbing plot? Look no further. The Walls Around Us will give you all of these and more.
This review should end right there. After all, this is a book you want to read blind, with no idea of what comes ahead or even what it could possibly be about. Some books are like that. Mysteries to unfold with the turn of the page. But review writing depends on actual information of some sort as opposed to vague gushing. (Although, let’s be real, this will be vague. And gushy.)
The story is told by two, very different, girls. One imprisoned, one free. One stocky, one fluid. One with no future, one with all her dreams on the palm of her hand. The girls never met. They didn’t go to same schools or meet in a park. But something else connects them: another girl – a ballerina sentenced to jail for murder. The Walls Around Us is the story of each of these girls. Their past and present, their souls and dreams all laid bare for the reader.
It is a deeply psychological story. Indeed, one could almost say that the book is that, first and foremost. You see, these girls are nowhere near perfect. They’re sculptures roughened by life and by themselves. Even when they look perfect on the outside, there are still thorns within, and they prick others, themselves, and bleed. Oh how they bleed. Their imperfections, their capacity for good and evil makes it easy, if not to relate then to empathise with them.
But what makes this book so compelling is the writing. Nova Ren Suma crafted a lyrical ambience that oozed darkness, mystery, and confusion. The last because the plot is not straightforward, and jumps in time with no preamble, so that the reader is the one that has to make the ends meet. The author doesn’t dumb it down, or soften the edges of characters or story. Atmospheric or not, it is a very raw book when it comes to feelings. Often, the girls will dig their fingernails into your shoulder and pull you into the whirlpool of their minds. This makes it all the easier to step into the characters’ shoes and experience their convoluted the world as if it were our own. And that, that is beautiful writing.
You often hear of “unique” books. Plenty of those probably aren’t, but this one is. Not only because it gets into your head, because of the unexpected surreal ending, because it’s difficult to pinpoint what genre it belongs to, or because of the heart wrenching prose, but because it dares to reveal how messed up a teenage girl can be. Whether she’s behind bars or pirouetting on stage, she’s still a broken human being.
I hadn’t heard of Nova Ren Suma before reading this ARC, but my hands are now greedily hunting for more. Because this, this is writing.
The book in a quote
“Maybe, long ago, we used to be good. Maybe all little girls are good in the beginning.”