Thursday, 23 April 2015


TITLE: The walls around us
AUTHOR: Nova Ren Suma
RELEASE DATE: March 24th 2015 (OUT NOW!)
PUBLISHER: Algonquin young readers

“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 Vee, 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: What really happened when 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? 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.
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.

All I knew about The walls around us was that it involved ghosts. Because of that I was expecting a typical, predictably creepy young adult ghost story. I was expecting something that would be interesting whilst I was reading, maybe scare me for a couple of hours afterwards, but ultimately not stand out from other books in the genre. That was not what I got.
The walls around us is creepy and strange and, especially for the first half, pretty confusing. It's disturbing and twisted and works its way into the back of your mind to play on it. There are no jump scares here, no horror movie cliches thrown in just to give people a quick scares, it's the kind of scary that creeps up on you and sends shivers down your spine whilst your reading. Sure, I'm scared easily, but this was by far one of the most effectively creepy books I've ever read.

The story is set partially in a juvenile detention center, which is a setting I don't think I've ever read about before but was thoroughly fascinated by. It also reminded me constantly that one of my greatest fears is being framed for murder, or locked up for some other crime I didn't commit, so that was fun. I loved reading about the dynamics between the different girls in the facility and having so many different personalities in one place made it really interesting to read about. I've never been to prison (and I don't plan too), so I can't talk about whether this depiction of it is very accurate, but the way Nova Ren Suma wrote about the setting really made me feel like I was there with Amber and the other girls.

I didn't really like any of the characters as people (the majority of them were criminals, after all), but I did like reading about them. Everybody was complex and intriguing and varying levels of messed-up, the only problem I had was that I wanted to know more about some of them. I personally found Amber's point of view more compelling than Violets, mostly due to the fact that she was the one in prison and I really wanted to know what happened in her past. I also enjoyed how Ori and Violet's friendship was described, it made me feel like I knew exactly how their relationship had been even though it was long over when the book started.

What really stood out about this book, far much more than the characters or the story, was the writing style. I'd been told before that Nova Ren Suma's writing is absolutely stunning, and that is so true. Everything she says is worded so carefully and powerfully, I kept putting my phone down just to think Damn, that was a beautifully written sentence (because I'm a nerd who does things like that). In another writers hands the story could have been dull and muddled, but I got so lost in Ren Suma's prose that the slow pace and strange aspects of the book barely bothered me. The writing was what made this book memorable and ensured it would haunt me for days after I finished reading. Furthermore, she created the atmosphere- which was suitably tense and mysterious- flawlessly and kept it up the whole way through.

Despite my love for the writing and the atmosphere, I did have quite a few problems with the novel that stopped me from enjoying it as much as I could have. I said earlier that I found the pace quite slow, and even though it still managed to keep me hooked and I can imagine that some readers could get bored. Leading on from this, some of the things that happened seemed repetitive and unnecessary, and I couldn't help but feel that I's already read a scene exactly like it before. I also mentioned earlier that it could be quite confusing at times, and even now I'm still not completely sure what happened. Because I didn't know what was going on it took me a little while to get into the story and I thought that Nova Ren Suma could have made some things clearer, even though I know it's supposed to add to the creepy atmosphere of the book if you don't completely know what is happening. Even though most things came together in the end, there were still some events from the book which I couldn't figure out why or how they happened.

I wasn't a fan of the ending, unfortunately. I was satisfied with how we found out what really happened on the night that got Orianna sent to jail, although I knew it all along, but what happened after that just seemed strange and unnecessary and I didn't totally understand what was going on. I can't say much without spoiling things, but I just wanted more conclusion to the story.

The walls around us was stunningly written and deeply haunting, it's definitely not one that I'm going to forget any time soon. I found the story to be slow and confusing at times, but overall it managed to keep me on the edge of my seat.

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