The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren SumaThe Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on March 24th 2015
Genres: Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal, Magical Realism, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Goodreads

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 the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there's Amber, locked up for so long she can't imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls' darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

In prose that sings from line to line, Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and of innocence, and of what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

5 Stars

What a phenomenal book this was. So unique, so different, so suspenseful. This is my first book by Nova Ren Suma but it won’t be by last. I gained so much respect for this author and I’m hoping she’ll be a new favourite.

This novel is frightening in every sense: both because of outer events and the inner thoughts of the characters. It’s a spooky novel that tells a twisted tale, but is also highly psychological. I loved it. Every second.

We were alive. I remember it that way. We were still alive, and we couldn’t see how close we were to the end.

The Walls Around Us is the most perfect title for this book: It’s about walls, about what it means to be trapped; not only physically but also trapped inside your own head. Living every day with terrible thoughts swirling around your mind, your own guilty conscience making your life hell. To me, this is the scariest thing of all because I am my own biggest critic. I am the one person I can never get away from.

This book contains so many things: jealousy, madness, friendships and rivalries, ambition, guilt, self-preservation. Nova Ren Suma managed to take all these elements and create something eerie and dark that was amazingly addictive. I read this book in two days because I just couldn’t put it down. I needed to know, I needed to understand.

The story is told in two voices – Amber and Violet – the former locked up in the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center for a crime she may or may not have committed, the latter an aspiring ballet dancer who is about to have all her dreams come true. These two girls are seemingly unconnected, except for one thing: They both know the girl named Orianna. Orianna – a girl locked up for having murdered two innocent girls.

The Walls Around Us was utterly captivating, but also very strange. It’s part psychological thriller, part paranormal mystery and for most of the time you aren’t actually sure what is real, what is someone’s unreliable narration and what is simply supernatural. It’s one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read and I mean that in the best possible way. Not even because of the plot – of which this book has very little – but because of the way the characters think, their seemingly emotionless state.

We were gasoline rushing for a lit match. We bared our teeth. Balled fists.

I will admit that I may be slightly biased when it comes to Violet’s and Orianna’s passion. They train to be professional ballet dancers. I think that most readers will probably prefer Amber’s perspective to Violet’s because of the intimate look it gives into a correctional facility. The group dynamic inside the walls of Aurora Hills is portrayed brilliantly. As much as I loved Amber’s voice however, I couldn’t help but be drawn to Violet. As awful and horrible as it sounds (and if you’ve read the book you know what I mean), I could identify with Violet. She’s mean, self-absorbed and incredibly jealous (all things I hope I am not) but when she described the way she felt dancing next to Ori and being on stage, I understood her. I got where she was coming from. That scene where Violet goes to cry in another room after the dance teacher told Ori she could start dancing en pointe but Violet wasn’t ready yet… I nearly started crying too because I know that feeling so well (and I’ve never even wanted to be a professional!). I don’t know if others can understand this, but the constant comparisons, the look in the mirror, the desire to be perfect and knowing you’re never good enough…it does change the way you think about certain things.

The writing is absolutely stunning. It is beautiful and haunting and Nova Ren Suma establishes an atmosphere that sucks you in and compels you to read on. The prose gets under your skin.

When a dancer finds herself onstage, before an audience, and comes upon that dreaded moment that can happen even to the best of us, when her mind empties of her choreography in a flood of panic, there are three different reactions she can have. In each one, she’s like a wild animal in the headlights, but the question is, which animal will she be tonight?

The ending is very odd and might not answer all of the reader’s questions, but is ultimately satisfying.

As much as I loved it, I know this book isn’t for everyone. In fact, I don’t even know to whom I would recommend it. So I’ll say this: If this review has made you even remotely interested, then please give it a try. Even if you don’t love it, it will give you a reading experience quite unlike anything else. It messes with your mind, takes hold of you and doesn’t let you go until the end.

The Walls Around Us is highly atmospheric and creepy, beautifully written, intimate and tragic and filled with intriguing characters. I adored it!