Wednesday, September 16, 2015

YA Book Pick: THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma

Once a month we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors.

This month's book is THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma. 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

“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.”

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.

First Line: We went wild that hot night.

The first few pages of this book are an interesting read given the use of "we" instead of "I" for the first person narrative. The story starts from Amber's perspective, but in the beginning she speaks for the entire group of forty girls incarcerated at the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center. Amber tells us about a night when the girls find the guard stations unmanned, the doors open, and the prison suddenly not a prison anymore. It's the start of a page-turning and haunting mystery that will have you furiously flipping the pages to find out what the heck is going on and how in the world all of these events connect together.

Highlights: The writing. Oh, man, the writing. The prose is beautiful, atmospheric and haunting. This is also unlike anything I have read before. The twists are unique, unexpected and incredibly well executed.  It was my first Nova Ren Suma book, and I now plan to go back and read everything she's ever written.

The story is told from the perspectives of Amber and Violet. Violet is on the verge of graduating and making her ballet dreams a reality. Amber is cellmates with Orianna, Violet's former best friend and former fellow ballerina. At first, the choice of Amber as the second narrator felt like a strange one. Why not give Orianna a chance to tell her side of the story? Why Amber, who seems like a peripheral character to the conflict between Oriana and Violet?  But that is part of the brilliance of this story, and it all comes together in an expected and imaginative way.

Notes for writers: If you're considering a dual POV, this is a must read. The unexpected choice of Amber as the second POV is a fascinating one, and shows how sometimes the less obvious characters can make for a more interesting narrative. And as mentioned above, this book is beautifully written and can serve as great inspiration for those of us working to build our atmospheric prose muscle. 

A great read for: Anyone looking for a unique and beautifully written paranormal mystery. Writers looking for inspired dual POV narratives and beautiful prose.  In short, everyone needs to go and read this book right now!

Hope you love it as much as I did. Happy reading!


  1. This has been on my TBR list for a while. I guess I better move it up!

  2. Yes, I highly recommend! One of my favorite reads this year (at least so far.) Hope you enjoy!