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Thursday, February 4, 2016

"The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma" (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Nova Ren Suma's Official Website Here

OVERVIEW:  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.

FORMAT: The Walls Around Us is a standalone YA novel. It is a haunting novel that is a mix of mystery and contemporary fiction. It is told from the point-of-views of Amber and Violet who have one common thread – a young woman named Orianna.

The Walls Around Us was published March 24, 2015 by Algonquin Young Readers.

ANALYSIS: Most of 2015, I struggled to find that one read that blew me away. Every year, there seems to be that one book that is so good that it is difficult to put into words, but you know deep inside it was an awesome read. I just didn't have any luck with finding a book like that, until I picked up The Walls Around Us.

I was not familiar with any of Nova Ren Suma's work, so I basically went into this book blind. I had the summary and a basic idea that it was a raw, emotional read that had a haunting feeling to it. That was all I knew.

Upon starting The Walls Around Us, I was a bit confused. The beginning can only be described as rough. The writing style isn't straight forward, it is very flowery and it almost felt like readers were thrown into a situation with no explanation. The opening scene involves a bunch of young girls at a juvenile detention center trying to escape after their doors are mysteriously opened up. No one knows why the doors opened up, but the girls see it as their opportunity to run for it.

After the scene with the girls making an escape, it quickly jumps to a scene involving rising star ballerina Violet as she takes the stage one last time before heading to the big city to make it big. Readers are given hints that Violet's rise to fame wasn't natural and something happened to make her the star she is today, but readers aren't told that at all.

For the rest of the book, readers are shown through a series of events. The story is told from two points-of-view. There is Amber a young girl locked up in Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center for a horrific crime. The other point-of-view is Violet, who has always dreamed of being a world famous ballerina, but has always had to settle for being second best; that was until a horrific and tragic event caused her to rise quickly to the top.

The two girls' stories eventually do connect, at the end of the book. But it takes a long while to get there. Readers are given lots of backstory and details that seem unrelated at first, but in the end all plays a part in the story.

This rather disjointed, flowery start to the book almost had me putting the book down. I was confused and couldn't place what was going on. That was until about page 100. Right at page 100 everything started to click. Events and little details slowly, but surely started to fall into place and I became hooked. Before I knew it the big reveal happened and the book was over. I was left in a feeling of complete awe of the book and with a desire to re-read it again to see what happens.

Nova Ren Suma does an amazing job of detailing the complexities surrounding teen girls' friendships. Readers are pulled into the story of Violet and Orianna. They see everything from how the friendship formed to how quickly a best friend will turn on another and betray her for her own good. It was beautifully written, but had a very sad element to it when you think of it on a deeper scale.

The friendship between Violet and Orianna isn't the only thing detailed. All the scenes of Aura Hills Detention Center are absolutely amazing. I have never been in a detention center, but Nova Ren Suma really detailed the experience. I felt as if I was actually locked up. There were moments of feeling claustrophobic. There were moments where I felt like I was one of the girls just struggling to survive, and there were times where I felt as if the guards were against me.

The Walls Around Us is by far not an easy read. There is betrayal and lots of unfair situations that many will find frustrating and at times a bit uncomfortable. There is also the fact that this book is not straight forward. There are lots of details and side stories being told that all string together in the end. Unfortunately, some readers will not enjoy the pacing and rather confused feeling they have for the first 50 – 100 pages. If you can get past that or you know things work out in the end, it is well worth it to try to power through it.

Overall, I absolutely loved The Walls Around Us. It isn't a book for everyone. It is certainly a dramatic, emotional story about teen girls and the struggles of peer pressure, the desire to succeed, the need to maintain friendships, and the complexities surrounding friendships/success/life.

I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something detailed and complex with a haunting mysterious air to it. The Walls Around Us will certainly not disappoint you.


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