Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Review: 'The Walls Around Us' by Nova Ren Suma

The Walls Around UsI requested this novel on a whim and a few days later saw a teaser on a different blog which made me desperate to start reading. And once I started there was no way I could stop. Suma has spun a web of words which is inescapable.
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.
Nova Ren Suma spins a plot in The Walls Around Us which will grip you tight and refuses to let you go. Even after finishing it I am thinking about it, mulling over it and asking questions which will probably never be answered. The Walls Around Us is that kind of story. The plot can, at times, be hard to follow but rather than this being a consequence of bad writing, it is actually proof of Suma's terrific writing. She tells you everything while telling you nothing and as you question yourself, she continues spinning her story. There is death, friendship, love and a touch of the paranormal. Often I find myself annoyed at the use of the paranormal in novels, since often it isn't a genuine part of the plot but rather a weak sauce thrown over a disappointing meal. Suma, however, used the paranormal to her advantage, working it into the plot in a way that will blow your mind. This was definitely one of the ways in which this novel was a breath of fresh air.

What made The Walls Around Us different from other novels about girls that I have read lately is the unmitigated way in which Suma allows the violence, beauty and cruelty of life as a young girl. There were descriptions in this book, moments, phrases, words, which absolutely took my breath away. Sometimes a book comes at a time that is exactly right and it hits close to home. Here's a little preview. Please remember this is an ARC and the finished book may therefore be different:
'Some of us had been running all our lives. We ran because we could and because we couldn't not. We ran for our lives. We still thought they were worth running for. p.7
Although in experience I am incredibly far removed from the girls in The Walls Around Us, there are experiences shared between all girls that are defining moment and Suma managed to capture those in language in a way that is utterly beautiful. I had to occasionally pause during my reading because I wanted to take in and savour a twist in the plot or a turn of phrase and this all made for an amazing reading experience.

The Walls Around Us is a strange mix of genres and themes that somehow come together and work. It feels like a psychological thriller and like a revenge movie, it's a story about young girls and a story about violent murderers, and it's about love and about treason. There is a lot of emotion in this novel and yet it is incredibly tight. Each chapter and each page is crucial to the development of the plot and the feelings worked into the story are important to the development of the book. Similarly, though a lot of the book is set "inside" of the characters, there is none of that inane, sentimental first-person narration that is typical for a lot of YA fiction. Each of the characters is absolutely fascinating in her own way and the way that Suma manages to bring each of their narratives together is really interesting.

I give this book...

5 Universes!

Yes, I shelled out my 5 Universe rating for this novel, but how can I not when The Walls Around Us had me pinned to my chair, too obsessed with this novel to care it was way past midnight? Suma is bound to fascinate you if you let her. There is darkness in this book and it is scary, at times, and yet I would recommend it to everyone. It's chilling and strangely heart-warming and I will be rereading it many times.

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