By: Melanie | March 18, 2015 | (41) Comments

Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren SumaThe Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: March 24th, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal, YA
Pages: 336
Source: Received in exchange for review
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“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.

I was actually not aware that Suma was publishing another book so when I saw this one popping up on Netgalley, I nearly fell out of my seat. No exaggeration, peoples. Seventeen & Gone was when the author stole my heart, and tucked it away some place where I’ll never find it again. And while The Walls Around Us did not deliver the same effect, I am still amazed by Suma’s amazing writer-abilities. Her books are castles, and you’d be mad not to see it that way.

Nova Ren Suma writes with a certain flare, and admittedly, her style isn’t made for every reader. (Yeah, that’s right, her writing is too brilliant for some of you – kidding…) This book has a little bit of everything thrown into it, but at it’s very heart, this is the story of three girls; Amber, Violet and Ori. But, we only get two perspectives – Amber, who killed her step-father and is now trapped in a Juvenile Detention Centre, and Violet, a ballerina with a bright future at Juilliard. These two girls have no links, yet, throughout the story we see how these two girls’ stories are entwined; and how they connect to tell the story of Ori, who is arguably the main character of this tale. I’m sure many other readers are going to agree with me on this; I was much more interested in Amber’s chapters as opposed to Violet’s. Ballerinas? Blah… But a jail filled with juvenile criminals? That’s more like it!

Unfortunately, though, I couldn’t connect with the characters all too well. Particularly Ori, who was meant to be the centre of the show. I think that it was the hugest downside to not giving her a POV in the novel – because as the readers, we can’t fully established a link with her.

We were alive. I remember it that way. We were still alive, and we couldn’t make heads or tails of the darkness, so we couldn’t see how close we were to the end.

If I were to describe this book to someone, I’d say it was the most unhinging, disturbing and strangest book I’ve ever picked up. Amber’s POV is told mostly with “we”. Suma aimed to creep us out with the refreshing albeit creepy use of inclusive pronoun, and she totally succeeded. It did actually remind me of that time I read Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, which also had perspectives using inclusive pronouns. So if you found that to be your jam, read no further, this book will be something you might enjoy. Despite this book being creepy as hell (though I would argue that’s not necessarily a bad thing), this book was insanely atmospheric. Some books just lull you in with it’s strong atmosphere, and like Seventeen & Gone, this novel was the case. This story isn’t a fairy-tale – the atmosphere is thick, tense and well, like I’ve mentioned millions of times before, strange. BUT good strange. Interesting strange. Unique strange.

They say nothing, do nothing. I can hear them all breathe.

I did feel that this story lacked a plot. I don’t want to elaborate because then I’d be spoiling, but this book constantly felt like it was missing something. A real backbone, a strong sense of direction… which this story was obviously lacking. I like the idea of reading between the lines to connect the dots of Ori’s story, but at the same time, it draaaaagged. I did get bored, and I sometimes had a strong temptation to skim Violet’s chapters because Amber’s just interested me so much more.

In all, The Walls Around Us was a unique and heavily atmospheric read infused with elegant prose and intricate characters. While this was not my favourite book of hers due to some qualms, I still recommend checking Suma’s work out.

~Thank you Algonquin Books for sending me this copy!~

3 Stars
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Owner (and crazy nut) at YA Midnight Reads
Melanie is one of the totally fabulous bloggers at YA Midnight Reads. She's a 16 year old student from Melbourne, Australia. She is normally found binge watching TV series, reading , blogging, procrastinating or fangirling about how Percabeth is the best ship ever. She's also a lover of caps lock and uses it excessively.

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41 Responses to Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

  1. I also got this from Netgalley for review but I haven’t read it yet -moment of shame. I’m really intrigued by it though, especially after reading your review! I should -and WILL- pick it up soon. I’m especially curious about the juvenile detention/prison part, I always like stories like that.

    Great review, Mel!
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  2. Cynthia says:

    I actually really enjoyed this one. It was so creepy and disturbing. And the ending was very confusing. This was the first book I read by this author. I really want to read Seventeen and Gone.
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  3. I started it but it wasn’t for me =(
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  4. Claire says:

    I saw this book at the store yesterday and was tempted to pick it up. Now I’m kind of glad I didn’t, although I will say I’m still intrigued by the premise. I’m looking forward to reading with the inclusive pronouns, because from what I can’t recall I haven’t read anything in that style yet. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the characters, though.
    Claire recently posted…Making Magic: Harry Potter Movie Night [PART ONE]My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      I found the use of inclusive pronouns to be really refreshing, so maybe that’s something you’ll like too if you end up choosing to read this!

  5. Valerie says:

    Hahah I don’t know what to think. I mean I have to read this soon so I’ll be able to form my own opinion then, but I’m not liking the whole no plot thing. Also, I keep getting this book confused with The Walled City (not that I know anything about that book either), but I always thought this was about a dystopian or fantasy read haha. STILL. I think I would like the atmosphere of the book, so that’s keeping my hopes up. We will see 😀

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    • Melanie says:

      Haha I got pretty confused with that one at first as well! Until I read this book of course, because the two are very very different xD Thanks Val 🙂

  6. I’m reading it right now and .. meh. I mean, I’m liking it and it is pretty weird but it’s not blowing my mind and i thought would have happened :/ does it make any sense? xD
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    • Melanie says:

      Yeah I know a few people who liked it, but found it to be weird and a little subpar at times. Honestly, I think everyone finds it to be weird but it’s up to you if you can wrap your head around it or not heh. I hope you ended up liking it!

  7. I started this one and set it aside. I just couldn’t get into it and this is the second reivew that wasn’t thrilled with it. I liked the writing, but I just don’t think it’s for me, so I am sticking with my decision and not finishing.
    Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings recently posted…Audiobook Review: Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2) by Ilona AndrewsMy Profile

  8. I definitely find Nova Ren Suma’s prose beautiful but on the flowery side of things. I find it weird how we don’t get the point of view of one main character. I can see why you would prefer one of the girl’s pov over another. Wonderful review Mel!
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  9. Sydney says:

    I’ve been seeing more and more of this book on blogs lately (which probably has to do with its imminent release date, ha), and the opinions have been really mixed. Some people ABSOLUTELY love it while others are iffy and find the writing to be a bit off.

    I’m not sure if I’ll pick it up when it’s released. :/ I might wait on it. It just doesn’t seem like my type of book, and I’m really picky about writing styles and inclusive pronouns. Unless they’re done right they just feel weird and awkward and do NOT immerse me in the story.
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    • Melanie says:

      Yes, I’ve noticed that Suma’s books get a whole range of reactions. It’s really up to the reader to see if they can click with the author’s writing style or not. Normally if you like her previous books, you’ll like this one too. Fingers crossed this is your cup of tea!

  10. Very much yes to all of this! I thought the writing was fantastic but the plot itself was… missing, mostly. I did enjoy the creepy/weird atmosphere, but I was left feeling quite unsatisfied by the plot lackage (and the end, which I flat out do not understand. At all.)

    And I agree completely about Amber being WAY more interesting. I just wanted to smack Violet most of the time- hard. Great review!
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    • Melanie says:

      Thanks Shannon! So awesome to see that you agreed with me on most of the part. Violet was definitely a bore. ALL THE AMBER SECTIONS WERE SO THRILLING AND JUST THE BEST IN GENERAL

  11. Lexa Cain says:

    I know several book bloggers who just adore this author – she sounds amazingly talented! Thanks for the great review. 🙂
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  12. I would DEFINITELY be more interested in Amber’s chapters. I’m curious to the murder of her father as well. I am so ready for the dark atmosphere and crazy, strange things surrounding this book, but I am concerned about it missing something. There are some books that focus on the other things apart from the actual plot, and those books tend not to be for me. 🙁 Lovely review, Mel!
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  13. I haven’t read any of this author’s work, but is sounds amazing! Sorry you couldn’t enjoy this one to the max, but I will definitely be checking it out – I’ve heard wonderful reviews about it! Yours being one of the loveliest, Mel 🙂
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  14. Kezia says:

    I’m dying to read this boooookkkk. Or Any Suma books for that matter haha! I hope I’m no the only who hasn’t read a single of her work. >< So sorry to hear that this book didn't live up to your expectation but it's great that you still found something to like in it nonetheless <33
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  15. Hannah says:

    I love Nova’s unique style of writing, and am looking forward to this one. I know her writing isn’t for everybody though, but I’m in the mood for something atmospheric. Great review!
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  16. I love this author. Have you read Imaginary Girls. That is a good one too. I will agree her writing is not for everyone it is a bit strange and disturbing but I love it. I am sorry to hear this one didn’t hit home for you as well as Seventeen and Gone but I am glad to hear you liked it.
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    • Melanie says:

      Yeah it’s a shame that I didn’t love this like 17&Gone. I still need to read Imaginary Girls, however! It’s been on my TBR since forever.

  17. See this is why I’m on the fence with getting this one. BECAUSE I LOVE BEAUTIFUL WRITING. I LOVE ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBING THEMES. I like hurting my mind. Butttt I like a good plot and I like a connection to my characters and this might not cut it for me. Beautiful review, Mel! <3
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  18. Tika says:

    I love dark and disturbing reads, but at the same time, you definitely want to connect with the characters and enjoy the plot as well. I’ve heard pretty mixed things about this, but because I’m sucker for creepy stories, I’m definitely going to pick this up. I honestly thought that The Walls Around Us was Nova’s debut novel, so thanks for dropping the title! I’ll be headed to goodreads to add Seventeen & Gone to my TBR 🙂
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    • Melanie says:

      If you’re looking for Suma’s debut it’s actually Imaginary Girls. 17&Gone was her 2nd and Walls Between Us is her 3rd xD I hope you love this one!

  19. Lyn Kaye says:

    I am going to snag this one for sure! I read Imaginary Girls and I loved it! I own 17 & Gone, but I haven’t read it yet. Grrr….I need to get on that.
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  20. I’m kind of on the fence with this one, but I think I’m leaning more toward reading it than not. It certainly sounds interesting but I don’t like reads that are too creepy. I read Imaginary Girls and liked it but wasn’t blown away and wondering if this will be the same. I think I’ll add it to my TBR for now. Great review, thanks for sharing.
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