The Walls Around Us tells the story of two girls, Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer who is worried that something will expose her deepest secret and threaten her perfect life, and Amber, locked up in the girls’ juvenile detention center since she was thirteen who doesn’t remember and can’t imagine life outside. Orianna, Violet’s friend and Amber’s cellmate, connects the two girls and it is through Orianna’s story that we learn about the dark secrets of their lives and the lives of the other girls around them.
The Walls Around Us is suspenseful and supernatural. Both narrators are unreliable, and yet Suma deftly weaves a narrative that draws the reader in. She effortlessly moves us through a shifting timeline with vivid language and imagery that interrogate guilt and innocence.We see the differences in how wealthy and poor are treated as they interact with the criminal justice system. It is difficult to not feel for Amber and her experiences in the maximum security juvenile prison and the life that brought her there or to not feel frustration with Violet, who is wealthy and privileged and headed to Julliard to pursue ballet.
Suma’s novel is eloquent. I know nothing about ballet, and yet I still was drawn into the worlds that Suma created. The novel was hauntingly beautiful and pulled me in from the start. Even to the very end, The Walls Around Us keeps the reader connected, questioning what it means to be guilty and innocent, who to believe, and what is reality. I can’t wait to pass this book along for others to find and to read more of Nova Ren Suma’s work.
Note: This review was first published in PCA/ACA Mystery & Detective Reading List (Spring 2017)