The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

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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.

Orange is the New Black Swan could not be a more accurate description for this novel.

This is the one of the weirdest, strangest books that I've ever read. And I mean that in the best possible way. Kids in prison, competitive ballerina world, and ghosts are contained within the work. Nova's writing truly does sing in The Walls Around Us, but it does more than that. Her writing disturbs, it surprises, it cuts with emotion, and it makes us think. It pulls you into this strange and twisted world, and it doesn't let you go until the final page.

I don't want to discuss the specifics of the plot too much, as it would ruin the experience of reading the work and discovering the pieces on your one. What I do want to say is that even though I couldn't necessarily relate to these girls' experiences, I felt for them. I felt trapped for Amber in her chapters that take place inside the walls, so much so that I could wait to get back to Violet's perspective so that I'd be outside again. Growing up as a dancer (though not a ballerina like Violet), I felt that competitiveness, that jealously that always exists in the dance world. Back inside the prison, I was most intrigued by Amber and her relationship to the book cart, as I saw myself in that.

I'm always a fan of amazingly well-done dual POV. I loved the time shifts and the creative chapter titles. In particular, I loved how Amber and Violet have no obvious connection. They're strangers. It's Orianna that ties them together. So, my only (minor) issue is that I wish I got to here Ori's voice, even once. That's just something I would've liked to see happen, to get to know her better, as opposed to just knowing her through other people's perceptions of her.

This book is not a light read. It's dark and brutal and haunting and if you're looking for your typical happy ending it is not going to be in The Walls Around Us. However, I love how this book transcended genres, how it forced me to become a fan of ghost stories when the genre usually makes me roll my eyes. In fact, it's not the plot that kept me reading, it was Nova's writing and storytelling ability. It's captivating.

"We were alive. I remember it that way. We were still alive, and we couldn't see how close we were to the end." 

I still don't quite know what to make of that ending. What I do know is that I will continue to read anything written by Nova Ren Suma.


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