Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ARC Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Published: March 24, 2015 by Algonquin Books
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: “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.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher (thanks Algonquin) via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have a long history of loving mystery novels and thrillers. From Goosebumps to Nancy Drew then on to Cozy Mysteries and so on. I am always looking for a really good YA mystery but often the ones I read fall a little flat. The Walls Around Us is the YA mystery and thriller I have been waiting for! It is complex and compelling with great settings, characters, and mystery that gets it right.

One of the things that I really liked about the book were the unique and compelling worlds of the book. We are taken through two equally cutthroat and dark settings in The Walls Around Us. First it's the world of a prison for young female juvenile delinquents. Then it's the world of ballet. With each setting we are able to completely immerse ourselves in what it was like to be a part of these worlds. We can see the jumpsuits and cells of the prison just as well as we can see point shoes and costumes of the ballet. Where the ballerinas are glitzy and glamorous with bright futures, the prisoners are disadvantaged and with nothing but hope. And despite the fact that they seem like they are two completely different worlds, the similarities are there as well. Both places have equal parts camaraderie and competitiveness. And both worlds are more than they seem. This made them the perfect location for the story of intrigue and mystery that was The Walls Around Us.

However the changing locations did sometimes get frustrating. I have a complicated relationship with multiple point of views and while I didn't particularly hate it here, I didn't always like going back and forth. Sometimes I would forget entirely what had happened in the previous section. It would move to a different place when I was becoming really invested in that story. It's not that it would leave on cliffhanger, in fact the transitions were really well done, it's just that it was kind of a confusing shift. But that may have been because I personally found the sections within the prison to be more compelling. But both were engaging places for the story and added a more well-rounded look at the plot and characters.

But it wasn't just the settings for this book that are more than they seem, the characters too were complex and interesting. The character that ties the two worlds together is Orianna or Ori. She is a ballerina who is sent to prison for committing a heinous crime. But she's not really the main character. Our two protagonists are Amber, a girl who has been in prison for a few years now and her best friend Violet, a ballerina who is getting ready to attend Juliard. And despite their differences there is some pretty interesting narrative symmetry and a lot of similarities between the characters. Neither character is particularly likable. They'll prickly, backstabbing, and rash. And yet somehow you root for them. Nova Ren Suma has done a fantastic job in making them sympathetic despite them not being very likable. Those weaknesses make them feel so real and the equal amounts of backstabbing from the secondary characters make you want them to succeed in the end. Both characters have secrets and their lack of honesty adds a lot to their characters. They're unreliable narrators, which I love. We're told right away how things end for them and Ori but we aren't told how or why. It makes them untrustworthy and not very likable but without a doubt the characters are complex and compelling.

But the most complex and compelling thing about this book was the mystery. I don't want to give too much away because you really need to read it for yourself. But just suffice to say that this is my favorite kind of mystery. I figured out the big picture parts of the twist pretty early in the book but it still worked. A lot of times what I see with mysteries, especially YA mysteries, is they try to surprise you by not giving you any clues or it feels too obvious. The Walls Around Us never felt like it was delaying the reveal and it felt unique and imaginative. It felt solvable instead of predictable. The clues were unveiled in a deliberate way that backed up my assumptions about the story. And yet there were still so many surprises. When everything was all said and done I was shocked, confused, and incredibly entertained. It was the YA mystery I have been waiting for. One that is complex and full of surprises while still being solvable. I seriously loved it.

The Walls Around Us was an incredibly enjoyable read. Nova Ren Suma has crafted a truly captivating and complex story here. It was atmospheric and pulls you in for something thrilling and unique. You're lulled into a false sense of beauty and hope just to be shocked and gutted by the ending. It builds to an exciting conclusion and with lots of mystery and excitement along the way, it was a great ride and a truly captivating read.

I give The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you are a fan of mysteries and thrillers this one is not to be missed. It definitely has some crossover appeal but if you are looking for that YA mystery that will keep you guessing but still let you solve the mystery then this is the book for you. I heard it referred to somewhere as Orange is the New Black Swan (hence the gifs) which is a totally accurate comparison so if you enjoy that TV show and/or movie check this out. It's worth it!

Have you read The Walls Around Us? What did you think? If you haven't what is your favorite YA mystery, are there any like this you think I should check out? Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I've always had a love for mysteries but I have yet to find a YA mystery that has gotten it right. This sounds like just the read I need. Great review! I'm definitely checking this one out!

    1. This one was it for me. I thought the mystery was so well handled. I have seen some mixed reviews so I think it depends on your tastes and what you are looking for but I really enjoyed it. It was similar to We Are Liars so if you liked that one try this.

  2. Wow, your review is really quite insightful and amazing! I agree with you on this book :-)

    1. Thanks so much! That is really high praise for a book reviewer! I'm glad you also enjoyed this book too.

  3. I've had my eye on this but couldn't tell by the cover and blurb whether or not I wanted to read it. I think I will pick it up now! Your review has my very intrigued! (:

    Pearl @ AsteriskPearl's Book Blog

    1. My job here is done! I'm glad I convinced you to pick it up. It was such a fantastic read and I hope more people give it a chance. Especially if you like mysteries.

  4. I really enjoyed this one. The ending was a bit confusing, but I actually loved all the characters. The author did such a great job with the character development. Loved the writing.

    1. The ending was confusing! It was one of those things I had to stop for a second and think about. I also had to suspend disbelief a little bit. I also loved the writing. I thought the mystery elements were so well done!