Friday, 25 December 2015

My Favourite Books of 2015 #6: 'The Walls Around Us' by Nova Ren Suma

First things first: Merry Christmas everybody! I hope you all have wonderful Christmas days with loads of food and presents! Now, let's get back to the listing! For this list I'm not restricting myself to books that came out this year, although many of the ones featured on this list will probably have. Rather, I'm hoping that by the 31st I've been able to show you what has happened in my life, book-wise, the last twelve months! 

My #6 is: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma!

This book and Suma completely changed  my mind about what YA fiction can do or be. It was told in such an interesting, non-linear way, the story itself was simple yet incredibly intense and the characterisation was amazingly detailed. I pretty much raced through this book and gave it 5 Universes!

The Walls Around Us
 Pub. Date: 25/03/2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
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.
Here are some of my thoughts on it:
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 moments 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.
If it sounds like something you'd enjoy drop by my review and then get your own copy!

So, what do you think of The Walls Around Us? And has it ever happened to you that you completely changed your mind about a genre because of one book?

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