The Walls Around Us – Nova Ren Suma

About the Book

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.

336 pages (hardcover)
Published on March 24, 2015
Published by Algonquin Young Readers
Author’s webpage
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The Walls Around Us was one of those random audiobooks I picked up from the library on a complete whim. I knew nothing about it, but it looked interesting and so I gave it a shot.

This is a young adult book, but it works really well as a crossover novel due to some of the heavy concepts that are dealt with here. In fact, despite the fact that this is a young adult book, the writing is so fantastic that my old, jaded soul fell into it incredibly easily. So, if you’re one of those people who thinks, “Young adult? I better move along.” Don’t let that deter you.

The Walls Around Us is a modern day thriller told from the first person perspectives of two different women. Amber is a young woman is incarcerated for a rather horrible crime. Violet is a ballet dancer whose best friend has been convicted of a crime that is just as horrible as Amber’s. Their lives quickly become interwoven through threads of past and present. It seems like Suma is telling two different stories, until you realize that she’s not.

I am always really reluctant to read a novel written with two (or more) different first person perspectives. It’s a huge gamble for the author to write like that. The voices have to be completely and absolutely different to reflect two different characters, and their own unique perspectives, and it’s rare that I run across a book that manages the different voices well enough to make them work for me. However, The Walls Around Us really worked in that regard. You get the internally conflicted Amber, who has had a good life until everything went so wrong. You understand how the juvenile detention center has carved its mark on her soul. You actually sympathize her, and it’s so real and interesting that her chapters quickly and completely absorbed me.

On the other side, you have Violet, who took a while for me to warm up to. However, I quickly learned that that’s part of the magic of her character. Violet is standoffish, and she’s aloof, and that’s just who she is. It’s a protective barrier that she raises to keep her inner demons from overwhelming her. Who she is, is very different than who she shows. It’s really fantastically done. It’s so rare that I’ve run across a character whose inner conflict has been so well drawn. I actually felt like her inner conflict was my inner conflict, and it quickly got to the point where I felt so much anxiety in some of her chapters that I had to take a break from it all.

It’s hard to review this book without giving away too much, which will ruin the entire experience of reading it. I can, however, say that the plot is incredibly fast moving, intricate, and quite shocking and absorbing. This book takes twists and turns that I didn’t expect. I truly enjoyed how seamlessly Suma wove together two storylines that seemed so separate from each other at the start. There were a lot of humanizing moments, and if there’s one thing that Suma handles well, it’s emotions. She punched me in the feels quite a few times as I listened to this book.

The audiobook is completely recommended. It has two different narrators, for each perspective, which just helped highlight the differences of the two women, their individual voices, and their storylines more than if I had just read the book. That really helped the book itself come alive for me.

The writing is spectacular. Intricate and flowing, without a single word wasted, and the voices and characters are so completely dynamic. It shocked me how much Nova Ren Suma could pack into one book, and I liked how well she kept me hooked and engaged. She uses emotions like a carpenter uses a hammer, and it’s delightful in a dark sort of way.

The Walls Around Us really wowed me. I went into this expecting entertainment, and I left it reeling. This is the kind of book that I look for. This is one of those books that you treasure.


5/5 stars

One Responses

  • I’m so glad you enjoyed this. It is, like you said, a good crossover novel that even folks who “don’t read YA” can enjoy. And I just love the cover art. I’m glad to hear that the audiobook had 2 different voices for the characters. That kind of thing in a multi-POV story can really make or break the audiobook version.

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