The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

Reviewed by Shannon, Windsor Library
As far as genre goes, this is probably not a book that I would have read on my own outside of this blog. But, because it got so many starred reviews I decided to give it a chance, and while I wouldn’t say that it’s one of my personal favorites I do think it has literary merit to make it eligible for the Printz award.

This book is being described as kind of a cross between Orange is the New Black and Black Swan, and while I agree with this comparison, it also is unique enough to stand on its own. The story is about three girls: Violet, a star ballerina about to leave her home town and follow her dreams to Julliard; Amber, an inmate at the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center; and Orianna, Violet’s best friend who is convicted of murdering two other girls in their ballet class and then also sent to Aurora Hills. Although the story is told from Violet and Amber’s alternating perspectives, Orianna is the key player here who connects them.

The narrative starts three years after Orianna has been convicted. It’s confusing and creepy, but in a good way as the reader tries to figure out what really happened between Violet, Orianna, and the two murdered girls.  It’s pretty clear from the beginning that Violet is not as innocent as she appears on the outside, so when we finally do get the whole story of what happened three years ago it’s not a huge shock, but there are still some surprises in the end. Along the way, we also hear Amber’s story about an abusive stepfather and apathetic mother, and how she would rather be locked up than out in the real world. This book touches on several big issues – abuse, bullying, guilt, justice—and it does so in a very interesting way with a balance between realistic and paranormal fiction so that it was unlike anything else I’ve read in YA. The Walls Around Us is unique, well written, and thought provoking, and I think it deserves a spot on the Printz list this year.


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