The Walls Around Us

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma


On the outside, there's Violet, an eigtheen-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 . . .


We were gasoline rushing for a lit match. We were bared teeth. Balled fists. A stampede of slick feet. We went wild, like anyone would. We lost our fool heads.

There is something uniquely disturbing about this book. I just couldn't wrap my head around the concept and I ended up constantly questioning whom to believe, whom to trust, whom to like, whom to forgive. Don't get me wrong: it was a great experience, brilliantly written, but it was also terrifying in a way I haven't felt terrified ever before.

We were alive. I remember it that way. We were still alive, and we couldn't make heads or tails of the darkness, so we couldn't see how close we were to the end.

Maybe terrifying isn't the right word. I wasn't actually afraid of anyone or anything tangible. But, somehow, time started slipping through this story, wrapping itself around me. Time and guilt and innocence and, sometimes, not knowing the one from the other is just as unsettling as staring guilt straight in the eye. This book, however, did both. It confessed to guilt, it pleaded innocence, it shocked with truth. What it never did, tough, was giving a detached, or even an unsullied, report of what actually took place.

Many a time, I've started reading a book without knowing what it is about. Often, I intentionally forget once I make up my mind to read something because I like how I can lose myself completely in a story when I'm not expecting anything. This book belongs to that category but it was the first one of it's kind where I really wanted to research it, once I had already started. There are certain aspects I found inherently confusing – but it was a good kind of confusing. Obviously, this story has a few mysteries to solve, which it does in the most subtle and, at the same time, straight way I've ever witnessed. I, honestly, don't know how Suma pulled it off and made it work but she did.

Home is where the heart is, and where the hell is, and where the hate is, and where the hopelessness is. Which made Aurora Hills pretty much like home.

The narration is really unique, the perspectives are really unique, the interweaving of the two stories is really unique – you get the gist. But because it is such an interesting concept I have a really hard time coming up with an explanation, at least one that doesn't involve spoilers. Basically, we witness two different stories (could also be three stories), while we're bing told that it is mostly about one of them, and how they interweave. Half the story takes place in a juvenile detention center, the other half doesn't and for a long time I wasn't even sure whether the two narratives overlap in time.

If you like your narratives straight-forward, this one might not be the story for you but if you're up for something unique and confusing: seriously consider reading this book. It was quite the ride and you should definitely check it out. The reading experience is especially great because you're kept on your toes while also being lulled by pretty words and pretty sentences. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. Incidentally, that led to me reading way past my bedtime yesterday and almost falling asleep which made the ending even more confusing and unsettling than it already was because I'd read the same line/sentence over and over again and I'd be stuck in a weird kind of repetition while also being the drowsy kind of delirious – both fit perfectly to the ending of the story. I wouldn't necessarily recommend trying to achieve the same state while you're reading this book but I do think it says quite a bit about The Walls Around Us that being in such a state is so fitting to its story.

The  only problem I really had with this story was how I often didn't feel like I connected with it. Not on an emotional level, at least. I don't know why that was but I just couldn't help but feeling like I should be more moved by the things that were going on. This book likes to keep its secrets close and only lets you peek at them. Maybe a peek just wasn't enough for me? I don't know but I'm pretty sure that's one of those pure "it's not you, it's me" things where the story couldn't have been any better but I still couldn't connect with it on a level it deserved.

There was a time when I could have grown up to be almost anything I wanted, like some of the stories promise in our more happy, hopeful books. I did once have a future.


As I've said: the only problem I had with this story was not connecting with it, which wasn't really a problem of the story but of me. Still, I am having a hard time coming up with an adequate rating; I wish I could give something like 4.25 but I'd rather stick to my usual half-steps and not split my rating up even more than I already have. However, I've been thinking that, on a scale from one to ten I'd rather give it an eight than a nine, hence: 4/5 stars. But those are four brightly lit stars illuminating the dark.


Name: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Pages: 336


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