ARC Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (2015)The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Published by Algonquin Books on March 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Law & Crime, Magical Realism, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 336

“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.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.Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.Praise for Imaginary Girls:“A surreal and dreamy world where magical thinking is carried to a chilling extreme.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review.

First Impressions:


That’s my first impression of a book that I couldn’t put down and pretty much raced through. This story’s lyrical tone and beautiful language gripped me, and I was first intrigued by the fact that it’s referred to as a “ghost story” in the GoodReads summary. This is true. The atmosphere in this book is at time chilling and ominous, and though I’m fairly sensitive to really scary books, this one didn’t bother me in the least. I was happy to slip into this story world the days I was reading this book, a world featuring killer ballerinas, the ghostly remains of a women’s only juvenile detention center, and the injustice of a person wrongly accused of a crime.

Ori and Vee were best friends until those days came to an end after a terrible crime took place in the midst of one of their ballet rehearsals. Ori is the one who gets locked up, while Vee is free to pursue her dreams of attending Julliard one day. Will those dreams come true? Will Ori’s innocence be proven? These are some of the questions posed for the reader in the book.

Some Spiritual Aspects in This Book:

One example of spirituality that was immediately apparent to me in the story is the desire for an injustice from the past becoming revealed and reconciled. Someone was wrongly accused, and obviously that affects the lives of multiple people in the story. I won’t give anything away about how and if that injustice is righted, but I’ll just say the presence of supernatural forces does come into play.

There’s also the issue of guilt and innocence. How do we navigate a world where the innocent are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit? When friends betray friends, destroying a life in the process? There are pretty heavy issues that come up in this story, and I think that adds to its appeal—how can things get better, we ask? Especially when it looks like wrongs will not be righted?

But wait. Events take place in the story—events that probably would not take place in our own world. But the world of The Walls Around Us is that of magical realism. And this makes this one unique story. Some readers might be confused by what’s happening at any given moment in this book, but hang tight—events should come into focus (or not).

Who Should Read This Book:

I haven’t read other books by Nova Ren Suma but I’ve heard that her other titles are good, so I assume that if you have read and enjoyed her other books, you might like this one as well. Do you like stories of ballerinas, stories from the barre? Multiple pov’s and a women’s juvenile detention center? Any of these reasons would probably be enough for you to test out The Walls Around Us.

There may be some aspects of the story you want more from, if you’re like me. For example, this didn’t affect how much I liked the book, but I definitely would have LOVED to read a few chapters from Ori’s perspectives. Sure, we get Vee’s and Amber’s, and those are both important perspectives, but I wonder how the narrative might have been different if we had received a deeper glimpse into Ori’s mind?

The Final Illumination:

I finished this eerie and unique story satisfied, but at the same time, wished it was longer with THREE voices (including Ori’s) instead of just two, Amber and Vee. At the same time, in real life, we don’t always have the advantage of getting all perspectives in a situation, so maybe the gaps left in the book are ok. I actually didn’t anticipate what happened in the end—I was expecting something—but not quite the resolution we receive. Tweet me or comment on this post when you finish the book, but I do have to say that what did happen was really interesting! And though I do have questions about the workings of all that happened, I suppose that’s where magical realism comes in.

The Walls Around Us impressed me with its plot that drew me in, its magical realism, and its grappling with what happens in a world where the innocent are found guilty.


What Katie Read