Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: The Walls Around Us

The Walls Around UsAuthor: Nova Ren Suma
Series: Standalone
Relased: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Algonquin
Length: 336 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

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. 

I’ve admired Nova Ren Suma deeply ever since she published her debut, Imaginary Girls. Her books aren’t easy reads and they could never be described as entertaining, but they are, as a rule, thought provoking and brilliantly written. There’s always such quiet beauty to her narratives, an unpretentious quality of her writing, very simplistic in nature but gorgeous beyond compare. Her style is far from being decorative or lush, but she still somehow creates an atmosphere that envelops the reader completely.

Nova Ren Suma builds anxiety slowly, little by little, brick by brick, until it becomes a huge, suffocating wall. Aside from being overwhelmed and claustrophobic, the reader must also deal with the paradox of liking a convicted criminal and despising a successful young ballerina. The two girls at the center of this story, Violet and Amber, are worlds apart from each other. Life gave them very different opportunities, completely different starting points, and they each did with them what they could.

In her quiet way, the author addressed the prejudices we all deal with (and make) daily. How easy is it to convict a girl from a broken home, a poor, motherless girl, regardless of her own success? And how much harder is it to see the faults in a rich girl, America’s sweetheart if there ever was one? Even though they’re hidden beneath a very odd story, these issues jump at the forefront all on their own, without being thrown in our faces by the author. The prisons are filled with underprivileged, unfortunate, some of them judged for who they are, but some of them convicted for what they are. We should know better by now, but somehow we still don’t.

It’s also very interesting to see the dark side of ballet, a prestigious art form that we tend to view as pure and innocent. Ballerinas in this story are anything but, though. They’re raised to be insanely competitive, self-absorbed and mean. Of course, some take to it better than others.

I’ll admit that this book was hard for me to read. All that jealousy and resentment, the pure evil and the unfairness of it all were simply suffocating. But in the end it was more than worth it. Rarely do I find a book that leaves such a strong impression. So read this, but find something light and funny to read right after. After, that is, you take some time to untangle things and think them through.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.


  1. This sounds like a fabulous read and I love that the author took on a tough subject matter very subtly.
    Wonderful review Maja!

  2. "I’ll admit that this book was hard for me to read. All that jealousy and resentment, the pure evil and the unfairness of it all were simply suffocating."

    While I end up loving books like this in the end Maja, I always have to work up to them. Shore up my courage and get ready to deal with everything that's thrown at me:) Glad this was such a winner for you!

  3. This is a book I have in my review pile and I hope to get to read fairly soon, but it's good to be warned about how it can be very hard to read it!
    Fantastic review, Maja!

  4. I do think of ballet as a rough life. I personally couldn't live in a world where there was so much ruthless competition. This does sound like an emotionally draining read. I'm wondering which girl is dead, and if the other is responsible? Hmm...Wonderful review, Maja! :)

  5. I just added this to my tbr list. I hope I enjoy it. Thanks for the warning that it's a bit heavy.

  6. Brilliant review, Maja! NRS is one of my favorite authors too, for all the reasons you list and because, years (and hundreds of books) after reading one of hers, I still remember her characters with absolute clarity. Because they are that masterfully drawn. Have you read 17 & Gone? Dani Noir? Honestly, I don't think I've missed a single world she published so far :) It's hard to stand out in the sea of writers that have flooded the current market, but there are a few that manage it without trying at all. NRS is one of them.

  7. I need to give this one another go. I strated it awhile back, but I struggled with the dark tone and lack of character connection. The writing was wonderful though. I am glad you reviewed it, I am encouraged now.

  8. I love quiet beauty! Gosh, I miss awesome language

  9. Looks like I need to read this author's works. I've gone from wanting to read Imaginary Girls to the whole of her works. Yes, I'm blaming you. While I've had my blinders off about ballet for a while I still want to read it. This really is right up my alley!

  10. Imaginary Girls just really didn't work for me. I get that her writing is beautiful and understand why some love her but the style just didn't work for me. So I figure this author is probably one I should skip. I'm really glad you loved this though!

  11. Nova Ren is one of those unreachable authors for me. She's so brilliant, but I feel like I'm not smart enough for her books. Stupid, I know. Anyway, hopefully one day.

  12. I've been meaning to read something by Nova for sometime now, I've heard brilliant things about her writing and I do love my books which leave great impressions on me for days afterwards, so still don't know why I haven't picked up one of her books. I think I would find myself gravitating to this book more than her previous one and thanks for the heads up about reading something lighter after. Gorgeous review lovely!

  13. I adored this one too and Nova is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. It was a bit of a hard read for me as well but boy was it all worth it. Beautiful review. :)

  14. One of my students is a ballerina and was invited to study at Juliard when she graduates -- she's one of the sweetest, goofiest girls I know! Of course, I *know* that world is hard on those who perform and that there is really so much competition, it's hard to be friendly.

  15. Though I have every one of her novels, I have yet to read Nova Ren Suma's writing. I don't know where to start. Maybe not with this one, but I definitely want this one. It isn't the first book that has made the world of ballet seem dark and jealousy driven. Lovely review!

  16. I've wanted to read a book by her because I've heard her writing is amazing, but haven't gotten around to it. I like how thought provoking this one sounds and it looks like I will need some time to read and enjoy this one. I'm putting it on my tbr pile.


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