The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
|The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Study of the cruelty of adolescent friendships combined with a supernatural psychological thriller. The two aspects of the novel meld beautifully to deliver a truly original book, reading which you're never sure what is happening, what will happen, and why. We loved this one.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: April 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
Amber is an inmate at Aurora Hills, a juvenile detention centre reserved for the most serious young criminals. She was convicted of murdering her stepfather but maintains her innocence. Amber speaks to us from the past and she details life at Aurora Hills and the relationships and hierarchies that exist between the inmates and the guards. One night, there is a storm. The prison's electrical system fails and the girls spend a glorious and dangerous night out of their cells. During this night, Amber has a paranormal experience, during which she "meets" Orianna.
Orianna - Ori - was a young ballerina. We are in no doubt as to her awful fate. Her best friend was Violet.
Violet, who speaks to us in the present, has recently been accepted to study dance at Juilliard. She has worked hard for this and has been rewarded by starring roles in her dance school's exhibitions and by the place at Juilliard. But Violet knows, and we know, that her success is undeserved. And it's undeserved because of that awful night that culminated in two girls laying dead in the tunnel of trees behind the dance studio.
What really happened that night? What role does Amber have to play in revealing the truth? Can justice ever be served?
Wow. I was blown away by The Walls Around Us. I understood going in that I was about to read a story that blended psychological and supernatural elements and I fully expected to see where it was going with the plot almost straight away. But I didn't. In fact, I had no idea how it would all tie together right up to the very end. It's a truly original story and so intricately plotted.
The language is lyrical and poetic and I think I got a bit lost in the air of mystery and menace it created. The timelines seem to shift and blur too, adding to the claustrophobic sense of not quite knowing what's going on. And our two narrators are acutely unreliable, making us work to establish which parts of what they say are true. All these things add up to an intense and heady reading experience. Underlying all this, though, is a real kitchen sink analysis of the friendships of adolescent girls and the hierarchies we all experience in life: between the talented and the workhorses, between the pretty and the plain, between the rich and the poor. It takes considerable skill to balance realism and the supernatural and heady prose with the down-and-dirty nature of blighted lives but Nova Ren Suma achieves it with ease and I think this is the hallmark of her novel.
The Walls Around Us is for readers who crave an immersive experience and want something more than a boilerplate story with a plot they can predict. It's both familiar and otherworldly. And truly original. We loved it.
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