The Walls Around Us

The Walls Around Us

The Walls Around Us

by Nova Ren Suma

Genre: YA Mystery, YA Paranormal
Published: March 24th 2015
by Algonquin Books FYR




The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices. 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.


I am quite unsure about how I feel about Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us. On one hand, the writing is exquisite and lyrical, but on the other hand I felt there was very little plotwork actually being done throughout the novel.

This is a story about two very different girls. There’s Violet, who is on the way to achieving her dream of becoming a professional dancer when her deepest secret threatens to be revealed; and there’s Amber, who has been locked up in a juvenile detention facility. These two girls never meet, yet their lives are linked by a single girl named Orianna, who helps them finally see what both girls are unwilling to see: the truth.

I think the plot is what lacked for me here: there isn’t actually much plotwork being done. It’s an intriguing and certainly twisted story about how two girl’s lives intertwine equipped with beautiful writing, but, other than that, there really isn’t much else to it.

It was the most private thing we had left—held even closer than our bodies, because our bodies were searched. But no one could shake out the truth from inside us. They couldn’t search us for that. Our guilt and our innocence were only our own.

Above everything else, however, this is a story about guilt and innocence, and what happens when the two are mistaken for each other. The narrator herself says at one point that no one person is completely innocent nor completely guilty, something that really starts to sink in as the story progresses.

The characters here are wonderfully written. You have no idea which characters – if any – are innocent and which are guilty. This provides a unique psychological aspect quite similar to the one provided in murder mysteries with portions written from the perspective of the culprit, a technique that never fails to keep me on the edge of my seat.

Although it may be a bit slow to start, once the pieces of the puzzle come together at the end of the story and you are finally able to see the connection between the three girls, you’ll realize what a talented writer Suma truly is, and you’ll be left unable to get this story out of your head.


62 thoughts on “The Walls Around Us

  1. Oooh~ I love this part: “that no one person is completely innocent nor completely guilty.” This is one of my most anticipated books this year but I’ve been reading mixed reviews already. I have love & hate relationship with lyrical writing style, but let’s how it goes for me.

  2. Suma’s novel are always such hit-or-miss reads, mostly because parts are a “hit” and others a “miss.” I’m still curious about this and plan to read it but I’ll keep in mind the slow start. Thanks for your honest review, Zoe!

    1. I agree Keertana. Nonetheless, I am still quite interested in seeing what you think of this one. And no problem – thank you for the lovely comment!

  3. I know exactly what you mean about this one and I feel the exact same way. After I finished it, it took me a while to figure out whether I liked it or not. The ending was kind of confusing. But I loved the writing so much.

    1. So glad to find someone who felt the same way Cynthia! 😀 I agree – the ending was a bit confusing, but the ending was absolutely gorgeous.

  4. Um, YES. Yes. This is 100% how I felt about this book. I mean, I don’t even have anything else to say, for you have said it all! The writing was fantastic, I totally agree. I just don’t know how I feel about the end, still. I have thought about it for a LONG time and I am still just underwhelmed. But I will for sure be reading the author’s other books! Great review 🙂

    1. So glad to find someone who felt the same way Shannon! 😀 I agree – the ending was a bit confusing, but the ending was absolutely gorgeous.

  5. That sounds fascinatingly promising. XD I nearly got this one off netgalley but then, um, it wasn’t able to be on kindle or something? All my grand intentions DIED. *ahem* So I’m glad you mostly liked it. xD

  6. I’ve seen a few mixed reviews for this one Zoe, but haven’t seen many that have really loved The Walls Around Us as yet. It seems the lack of direction and plot add nothing to the overall feel of this one, which is a shame. I love lyrical reads, so this is one of those I might save for a rainy day. Wonderful review Zoe, hopefully you enjoy your next read that little bit more <3

    1. Honestly, I don’t think I have either Kelly. Most reviewers seemed to have liked it well enough, but I don’t think anyone I know has really loved it, which is a shame because the writing is definitely fantastic. Thank you!

    1. Definitely give it a try Kara – the lack of plot is definitely secondary when compared to the exquisite writing.

  7. When I read the line “unique psychological aspect”, it instantly piqued my interest. Maybe to me it will make up for the lack of plot? But your rating seems to be enough to make me want to read this one. 😉

    1. To be honest Dre, for me at least, the unique psychological aspect definitely makes up for the slight lack of plot. 😀 I hope you end up feeling the same way!

  8. i haven’t been crazy about this one since most of the things i’ve heard about this one seem to be off putting. The lack of plot worries me and if i don’t feel like a book has a clear ‘end goal’ i tend to zone out. Hm, i’m not sure this one is for me zoe. Loevly review though, and i do hope you enjoy your next read just a little bit more.

    1. Thank you Lily! If you tend to zone out of books without a specific end goal, this probably won’t be for you unfortunately. 😐

  9. This is what I keep hearing! I’m all up for lyrical writing, but this wacky plot which will probably do my head in is just not for me. Plus, magic realism almost always never wins me over :/ I’m a big fan of the exploration of guilt though so I may just have to pick this one up after all! Beautiful review, Zoe! <3

    1. It definitely sounds like you’re a bit on the fence with this one Jess. Let me know what you end up deciding, okay? <3

  10. Interesting perspective, Zoe! So far, from what I’ve gotten from the reviews I read, this has a “mindfuck” quality to it. I used to be curious, but I really don’t find a “nearly no-plot” book that appealing right now :/ The last time I read something like this, I finished feeling exhausted! Haha.

    1. It really does have that quality Faye. If you read any of Katie Karyus Quinn’s books, this is quite similar. Definitely read it, but maybe wait until you’re in the mood for something without much of a strong plot.

  11. Maybe the exquisite writing made up for the lack of plot? This isn’t really my kind of read but once in a while I want a good mind-fuck so maybe I’ll try this one soon. You really got me curious about this. Great review Zoe!

  12. This is one of those books that has me SO on the fence. On one hand the premise is interesting, but so many people have been really iffy on it that I don’t think it’ll be the book for me. 🙁 I’d never heard of it before the blogging community started talking about it. Great review, though!

  13. I think that’s the thing w/Suma. I’ve only read one of her books, but based on that and your thoughts here, I’d have to say that, yes, her writing is exquisite and all, but her plot work leaves a lot to be desired. That just doesn’t sit well with me. I need a good plot to move things along. Not to mention good characters. She’s just not for me. Glad you enjoyed this book in the end though.

    1. I don’t know if she’s for me either. I’m definitely a plot-oriented reader as well, which doesn’t suit well for novels like Suma’s. *shrugs*

  14. I love great writing, but I also love a great plot, and I hope the love for good writing wins out if I read this! I’m really interested in what you mean about the details that connect the three girls. I love stuff like that.

  15. Hmm, interesting. I’m not sure if I would favor writing over plot, that would be a tough decision. I think it would depend on what mood I was in. I’m loving the sound of the characters and not knowing who is guilty, that sounds awesome. Nice review!

    1. I agree Alise. It is definitely a tough decision; but the emphasis on guilt and innocence was definitely a nice touch.

  16. I actually read this one review on Goodread, but I love the layout on the blog. Yeah, there definitely was a lack of plot work and you could feel the holes inside it. It was actually a pretty simple plot, when you think about it. But the creepy and eerie atmosphere and the amazing in figures of speech writing won me over. I’m glad you still enjoyed it too. ^^ Great review, girl!!

    1. I completely agree. The lack of plot was definitely made up for by the wonderful writing and atmosphere development. Thank you! <3

  17. This one didn’t work out for me sadly 🙁 I agree with you and I also felt as though there wasn’t enough plot work being done and I think that really affected my enjoyment of the story. I loved so many aspects of the story but it just ended up falling flat after a while since it just seemed so… random? I had thought I would give it a 5 given how much I love creepy but yeah 🙁

    I am glad to see that even though you didn’t love it, you enjoyed this one more than I did! 🙂

    Lovely review, Zoe! 😀

    1. I completely agree with you Rashika. There definitely wasn’t enough plotwork being done, and the story (especially the paranormal aspects) were a bit random.

  18. I’m glad that you were able to enjoy this story overall Zoe, I have heard wonderful things about Nova’s gorgeous writing, I really guess that I need to experience her work for myself one day soon! Lovely review! 🙂

  19. I’m on the fence about this one b/c too often I get annoyed with a slow start. Clearly, you think it’s worth it, so I just might add it to my ever growing TBR! 😉 Lovely review Zoe!

  20. I haven’t read this one but hopefully it’s my next reading – I really do like the cover of this one, but the mixed reviews are kind of scaring me now now:/ I still want to check it out though, I think the writing might make up for the plot 🙂 Wonderful review Zoe.
    P.s Love your blog layout!

    1. I hope the writing style makes up for the slight lack of plot for you when you read it Benish. 🙂 Thank you!

  21. Nova Ren Suma’s books really remind me of Kate Karyus Quinn’s! Both authors have such gorgeous writing, but the stories they tell are so weird and confusing and just out of this world. It sounds like The Walls Around Us was something like that, too? It’s such a shame that the story didn’t pan out the way you’d expected it to, though. I agree, I would have appreciated more plotwork, especially since the plot seems to play a huge role in carving out a story like this — based on the blurb, at least!

    I’ve only read one book by Suma, and that was Imaginary Girls which was really strange but gorgeous at the same time. The characters were kind of forgettable to me, though, so I’m glad to hear that they were wonderfully written out here. And I like that they’re not wholly good or wholly evil, but somewhere in between, just like real people.

    Overall, glad you were able to enjoy this, Zoe! I love love love the cover and the concept, so it’s a bit disappointing that the book was only able to get three stars from you. 🙁 All the same, thanks for the honest review!!

    1. THEY TOTALLY DO! Both authors write such weird and confusing stories and have awesome prose. I hope if you decide to read this one you’re able to overlook the slight lack of plot and appreciate it for the writing style Megan. 🙂

  22. I read a review of this book recently which had similar feelings toward this book as you did. I’m on the fence with this one and not sure if I want to read it or not. I’ve only read Imaginary Girls and that was a three star read for me. I have a feeling if I give this one a try I’ll feel the same about it. I think I need to read a few more reviews before I decide. Thanks for sharing

    1. Yeah, if you felt a bit mediocre about Imaginary Girls then I’m not sure what you’ll think of this one. I hope if you do end up reading it that you enjoy it Rochelle!

  23. Hmm, the premise of this story sounds really interesting and thought-provoking, but I wonder how I would like such an introspective novel. I feel like I would have to be in the right mood to read this. It sounds like a powerful read though!

    1. It’s definitely a powerful read, but like you said definitely something best suited when you’re in the mood for something extremely character-driven.

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