Book Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

The Walls Around Us

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. 336 pgs. YA Fiction. Image found on google.

“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.

(Summary excerpt from goodreads.com)

***This review contains spoilers***

This beautifully written book captured my attention from the moment I opened its stunning cover. The elegant writing style pulls you in and sings about a world turned upside down by tragic events of guilt and innocence. I thought that I knew the direction the book as going and how it was going to end but I was completely blindsided by the ending. I’ve never read an ending quite like this one and it was the best example of the saying, “Karma is a bitch.” The characters were well developed and I related to two of the characters, Orianna and Amber. I laughed, cried and cheered with them.

The story is told in dual perspectives, Amber and Violet, that overlap each other and a third character, Orianna, who is the connecting factor. Amber is serving time in a girl’s detention center, Aurora Hills, and sees no end to her sentence in sight. She keeps her head down and knows her place within its cinder block walls. Amber’s position is to push the library cart down each wing and pass out books, she takes pride in her job to make sure the books are nice and organized. She differs from the other girls in the facility because she is viewed as innocent, the other girls have taken part in violent crimes but Amber appears to be there by guilty association. When Orianna is sent to Aurora Hills she becomes Amber’s new cellmate which changes both of their lives forever. Violet is an eighteen year old on the cusp of starting her new life at Juilliard to pursue her dreams of being a famous ballerina. Three years ago a violent act took place behind the dumpsters at her school involving two fellow ballerina’s, as well as, Violet and Orianna. Orianna, a girl who was a natural at ballet and a genuine friend, was convicted of the crime that took place that fateful night three years prior. She was sent to Aurora Hills where she meets and befriends, Amber. But her tale is told through Amber and Violet because Orianna is dead.

This book touches on great topics such as bullying, peer pressure and domestic violence. Showing how each can effect people’s lives by leading them down dark paths. Rachel and Harmony bully Violet, one day they are sweet and the next calling her names, but when boys enter their ballet class the bullying reaches a new height. Cody seduces her into a very compromising position and unbeknownst to Violet the other girls are recording the whole ordeal. They continue to tease and torment her about said incident. As the story progresses we find out that Orianna comes from a broken home and Violet comes from a wealthy family. While Violet and Orianna have a great friendship from the outside we see that Violet manipulates her best friend by using her big heart against her. Violet pressures Orianna at a young age to hold her ballet progression back so Violet can strengthen her feet to begin pointe lessons. It’s all done indirectly but nonetheless it’s evident that her jealousy of Orianna forces her lash out in a passive aggressive manner. Violet’s jealously manifests into rage when Rachel and Harmony’s teasing goes too far, subsequently resulting in the death of the two girls. Violet throughout the whole novel denies any involvement in the act and pins it on Orianna. Guilty by association Orianna is the one punished and takes the blame for Violet, who doesn’t defend her friend once. In the case of Amber she claims to be innocent on the outside but inside she is guilty. Her mother married an abusive man and Amber quietly plots ways to get rid of him. At first it is harmless things, merely wishing him gone but it then escalates to attempting to poison him and tampering with his car. After several attempts at fiddling with her stepfather’s car she gives up but it explodes one evening causing his death. Amber being home all day sick should have been her saving grace but her mother chooses the stepfather’s side. This sends Amber to the detention facility.

I want to take a minute to talk about Orianna. She effected the lives of everyone around her and I couldn’t help but feel a strong connection to her. She’s the type of friend that everyone needs in their lives, a pure soul, who is always there for you and will do things for other people without a selfish agenda. She is such a strong presence in this book without being a primary voice, but her voice is the loudest. She made me feel the most throughout the entire book and I couldn’t help shouting out with joy at the ending (I had to put the book down to gather myself before continuing.)

The supernatural element to the story was one of the best elements of the story. I didn’t see it coming at all it took me completely by surprise; it elevated the ending to a new level. Karma. The best use of karma with a supernatural element in a young adult contemporary that I have ever read and I wish it would happen in real life. Orianna appearing to Violet at the end was super creepy (in a good way) and I found myself glued to the pages waiting to find out what was going to happen.

I usually read series and trilogies, my book cases are packed with never ending series. It’s not often that I read a standalone novel; the story has to be special in order for me to even think about picking it up. The Walls Around Us is a very special book. This book is everything and more. The characters and the story will stay with me for a very long time and I can say that this book is going on my top reads of 2015. I can’t wait to reread it. I love this book. I love the characters and the writing. The writing is beautiful; I cannot stress this enough. I’m finding it extremely hard to adequately describe my feelings. It’s just so good. I urge everyone to go out and pick up a copy and begin reading immediately; you do not want to miss out on this stunning novel! If you love a good young adult paranormal suspense then this is a book for you. Since this is a YA novel expect themes appropriate of that age group (sexual situations and implied drug use.) I highly recommend this book.

I gave The Walls Around Us 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Review by Amanda S.
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