Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

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I received this book for free from Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: 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, YA
Source: Algonquin Books
Buy on Amazon

“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.

Another fabulously strange book from Nova Ren Suma! The writing is brilliant, the way the story is told is mesmerizing and deeply disturbing. I just loved it!

First I have to say that the blurb reveals too much. I went into this without re-reading it, and I personally think that if I had known more than I did, the story would have lost the extra bit of magic that the unknown allows us to have. While this revelation is not exactly a twist – there’s no real “aha” moment – it does become an unsettling fact that you simply can’t ignore anymore, and discovering this through your own deductions makes the reading experience all the better – an experience that the blurb takes away. So my advice is to go into this one blind. If you enjoy thrillers, mind-f*cks, books that are outside the box, this one is for you, and that’s all you need to know!

We get a story told to us through two different voices: one is in juvenile detention center, the other is a dancer with a bright future. The two are complete strangers with nothing in common whatsoever – or so it seems, at least. However, this is not their story. This is the story of a girl with a promising life full of dazzle and fame. A girl whose life was turned upside down one tragic afternoon. A girl who is finally given a voice, if indirectly. Her story is unraveled through Violet and Amber’s perspectives, ambiguously at first, until we get the full picture and learn how everyone is connected. Their stories vacillate between innocence an evil, making us question who really deserves our sympathy. In Amber’s perspective we get a vibe that’s very Orange-is-the-New-Black-ish. There’s a tense atmosphere, a wavering group dynamic, a human instinct of self-preservation, but at the end of the day these girls are a family, and together they stand. Amber’s story is full of longing and despair, yet she’s the easiest to root for. Then we have Violet, whose perspective is infused with determination and energy, yet seem to be oozing this… darkness. I wasn’t as compelled by Violet’s POV, though this could be due my wanting to get back to Amber. Still, she’s intriguing and it’s curious how their stories intertwine.

As is usual for Nova Ren Suma, the writing is wonderfully cryptic, highly atmospheric, with a touch of strange. You can’t help but become compelled – spellbound, even – by her words. She paces the mystery perfectly, giving us hints that seem to only play with our minds until everything starts interconnecting, making brilliant sense, finally. The ending is very… final, if a little bit shocking. I’m still unsure how I feel about how it ended, but I was satisfied nonetheless. Unique and unforgettable, The Walls Around Us is not to be missed!


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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15 Responses to “Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma”

  1. JennRenee

    Oh I am so super excited for this book. One of my favorite authors. need to preorder this book for sure. I am so glad you loved it although not surprised. I think you love Nova or you don’t. I will NOT preread the synopsis. Thanks for putting that in there because I generally do before I sit down to read the book and I want to make my own deductions for this read. Really intrigued by Amber’s pov with the orange is the new black vibe. Sounds very awesone.

  2. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I definitely need to read a Nova Ren Suma book. I love the cover for this one, so I’ll probably pick it up! I’ll also remember to go into it without knowing much. I want to read it just to experience the gorgeousness of the writing!
    I’m glad you enjoyed this so much, Giselle despite you enjoying one POV more than the other!
    Lovely review.

  3. Cynthia

    Great review! I am so glad you loved this one. I loved it as well. I had not read anything by this author before, but I surely intend to. The ending was so crazy that it took me a while to decide how I felt about it. Ha.

  4. Salha Abuhayar

    Sorry for the bit of negative comment but, is it really that good?
    I don’t know why but this story seems to be a bit of a cliché, like the typical ‘the princess and the pauper’ comparisons and that their lives suddenly change… What’s the factor that makes this novel differ from the others that are similar?
    I would like to read it, but first I want to be sure it is worth all the hype.

    Thanks in advance for the answers 🙂

  5. A.P.Bullard

    It’s great that it had a rocky start with the over-sharing in the blurb, but ended up being so engrossing. The finality of the end sounds like it adds that heavy aspect I really enjoy in my books.

    Great post, as usual!

  6. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    I really need to get reading my ARC of this one! I just need to get it into my tablet since I couldn’t send it to my Kindle from NG.

    Really glad to hear it keeps you guess and that the ending is very final, although strange. I’m not usually a big fan of very open or unresolved endings!

    Great review Giselle!

  7. Beth

    I’ve been hearing such great things about this book! So glad to hear you liked it! I love psychological thrillers, and I love YA–when they are put together it’s just magic. I’ll definitely be checking this one out!

  8. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    Ooh I am really curious about this one! I have it coming up for me and the reviews have been pretty mixed so I’m going to head into this one with not so high expectations–though I did LOVE 17 & Gone. So glad that you loved this as much as her previous books!

    Lovely review, Giselle <33

  9. Ramona

    I admit I skimmed this, because I think NRS is a goddess of the pen and I want to savour this, so I don’t want to know much about it. I didn’t even read the blurb, if you can believe it 🙂 Just the fact that it’s a NRS book is enough to make me buy it. I’ve never been disappointed by something she has written.

  10. Joy @ The Bookshelf Intruder

    I love the cover of this book and if I didn’t read the blurb, I’m sure I’d pick this one up. But it sounds so scary and I am a complete wuss when it comes to anything that has horror in it. Maybe I should read it with someone beside me? Hahaha. Awesome review though, Giselle. 🙂

  11. Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

    I so agree about the blurb revealing too much. I’m not sure I ever actually read it before requesting it (because Nova Ren Suma, why not). I’m also undecided on how I feel about the ending but the rest was so fantastic that it did end up working for me for the most part. Great review. 🙂