Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

From Goodreads:
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.
In terms of writing, I think this is very similar to We Were Liars.  It's very dreamy and poetic, what I think could certainly be described as lyrical.  I feel like Suma did a good job of capturing two very different voices in the alternating narrators.  It's always a good thing when you can tell which character is narrating without having to turn back to the chapter heading to remind yourself.  I think she also did a great job of combining suspense and intrigue with character development, which produces a book that it fairly balanced in terms of plot and characterization.  It's certainly on the more literary side of Young Adult as a genre, but it has the tension of the best popular thrillers as well.

Entertainment Value
I hate to even say it, because it's one of my pet peeves, but this really could be the literary equivalent to Gone Girl for the YA crowd.  Narrators who are ambivalent at best, unreliable and unlikable at worst, make for a compelling read.  And it doesn't hurt to have a creepy abandoned/burned out penitentiary as a setting.  I read it in two sittings, and the only reason I didn't finish it in one is because I'm too old to stay up all night - I had to give in and sleep at some point.  I still stayed up extra late reading and grabbed it again the second I woke up.

There's a lot going on in this book, and it has a lot going for it in terms of the quality of writing and in the experience you'll get in reading it.  My one complaint is that I'm still not sure what to think of the ending.  It's...different.  I can't say more without spoilers, but it's one I'm anxiously waiting to discuss with friends because I'm honestly not really sure I fully get it.  If you've read it, email me and let's talk!

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