Author: Nova Ren Suma
Violet has a bright future ahead of her, she’s spent her whole life training as a ballet dancer and all her work is finally going to pay off. Amber’s future was put on hold the moment she was locked up in Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention Center for manslaughter. But Violet and Amber’s lives are more connected than outward appearances would imply and both hold the answers to another girl’s terrible fate.
“We were gasoline rushing for a lit match. We were bared teeth. Balled fists. A stampede of slick feet. We went wild, like anyone would. We lost our fool heads.”
Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us requires a suspension of disbelief as the author explores two separate characters’ stories that take place at two different moments in time, but still manages to blend the two despite this. The first thing that hits you is Suma’s beautiful writing. It’s often diaphanous, graceful and odd. While the story is told from Violet and Amber’s perspectives, it is the mystery of Ori, the talented and kindhearted ballerina that somehow ends up in the same detention center as Amber, that drives the narrative, how Violet can’t seem to forget her and how Amber can’t seem to remember her. It did take awhile to understand exactly what was unfolding before me and exactly what role these two characters play in Ori’s life, but once I understood, I needed to know the whole truth and thus kept turning the page.
Violet or “Vee” is not a likable character. She’s unapologetic in her arrogance and dislike for others. She’s vindictive and prone to bouts of jealousy. She’s driven by a dangerous mindset that someone else’s happiness subtracts from her own and though she’s aware of her own ugliness, she’s too preoccupied with her own desires to do anything about it. Amber, though she’s been convicted of manslaughter, is the more sympathetic character. Through her eyes, we get a glimpse into Aurora Hills, a place where every girl has a laundry list of regrets. They don’t regard one another as friends but they are nonetheless connected to one another through their shared circumstances.
While I enjoyed reading about these complex characters, the suspension of disbelief I was willing to take part in at the beginning was less forgivable when faced with the conclusion of the novel. I felt more confused than satisfied, but despite this, The Walls Around Us won’t be the last book by this author that I pick up.