ARC Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

ARC Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
The Walls Around Us
by Nova Ren Suma

Genres: Horror, Magical Realism, Young Adult
Publication date: March 24th, 2015
by Algonquin Young Readers

Format: eARC

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“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.”

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. 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 received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

I want to start off by saying that in the hands of the right reader, this will be one well loved book but it seems I wasn’t the right reader. I started off this book being so so sure it would be a 5 star read for me. It had the right amount of mindfuckery and just made me really excited because I adore creepy/bizarre books. If you think I am going to say that this got too creepy or bizarre for me, you would be wrong. I think what went wrong with this book, at least for me as a reader, was that I stopped liking the story.

It’s not that the author doesn’t have absolutely gorgeous writing or that the book is incredibly atmospheric, because both of those things are true, it’s just that I didn’t care for the story itself. It didn’t work because it didn’t make sense to me. I, by nature, am an incredibly curious person so being left with so many questions and so many things that didn’t add up made me feel incredibly disappointed when  I finished this book.

Vee and Amber are the two narrators of the story and both are incredibly relatable. One of the problems, for me, at least was that Vee wasn’t really supposed to be likeable and yet I liked her because I could relate to her. Everything that happens, all of her actions, seem to be a result of her being bullied and yet everything points at her being a terrible person. It made me sad because while I didn’t condone anything that Vee did, I felt like there was more to the picture.

Her friend, Ori, was a character we were meant to like but I never liked her. Ori is this picture perfect character. Super nice, loyal, popular(ish), fantastic dancer, and obviously, she is perfect without thinking she is (because of her past and her low self-esteem). Such perfectness made it hard for me to emphatize with her. I could relate to Vee but not to Ori and I think that was also one of the reasons why I had a hard time completely getting behind the story.

Amber’s storyline on the other hand though… That is where all the awesome was. It was told in the point of view of ‘we’ (for the most part) and we get to see what life was like at this juvenile detention center. The way all of this is set up, the dynamics between the girls and the center itself, it’s incredible. It’s fantastic and it really makes this book so atmospheric.

Right off the bat, there is something weird about the way Amber tells her side of the story that makes you think she is unreliable. She may seem perfectly normal but the more you dig deeper, the more truths come crawling out from underneath.

This is where the supernatural aspect of the story comes in and it’s one of the other reasons why the story didn’t work for me. I wasn’t surprised but I wasn’t expecting it. That sounds weird, I know, but I don’t know how else to put it. I guess it would be more appropriate to say that I didn’t *want* it. I didn’t want this story to have a supernatural aspect. I just wanted it to be mundane off the chart creepiness, not influenced by some outside source. The lack of explanations also made it harder for me to adjust to the supernatural aspect. It almost seemed like the supernatural aspect was natural and I wish it was either done differently or I don’t know. It’s so hard to explain!!

One of my major problems, the last straw for me, was the ending (ha!). The ending was not what I expected at all. It was definitely creepy but the way things turn around afterwards, the way certain things were changed without any explanations, the way there was no real build up to it, bothered me. I was so confused by it and so thrown off and so disappointed. I had been counting on the ending to be the factor that would redeem the book for me. Obviously that didn’t happen because right now, I am sitting here, forcing myself to write this sad review and trying not to gorge on my bag of kit kat minis.

If you’re curious about this book though and fell put off by my review, go look at some positive reviews before making a final decision. This book may not have been for me but it could be for you so don’t just miss out on the awesome creeptastic atmosphere of this book because some girl you follow said it didn’t work out for her!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Impact
Ending
Overall: 2.7
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Rashika

Rashika is a mysterious creature who likes to hide in the shadows. It's impossible to get to know her but if you must know, she is a huge bookworm. She also happens to have a huge sweet tooth so you can always lure her over the dark side by offering her something sweet (or bribing her with books).

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  1. says

    It’s so tough to go into a story expecting to love it, and then it falls short. I can tell pretty clearly from your review that this wouldn’t work for me either. A few things stood out to me that I know I’d struggle with: 1) “I, by nature, am an incredibly curious person so being left with so many questions and so many things that didn’t add up made me feel incredibly disappointed when I finished this book.” ME TOO. I like to Know Things. I would have trouble with plot holes and feeling like the story didn’t add up. 2) Wanting a creepy book that unfolds with a realistic plot line and finding a supernatural one instead. I know exactly what you mean by that! Maybe it would be easier b/c I now know it’s supernatural from your review, but I’ve wanted certain stories to explain themselves without the “magic” and been disappointed when it went that way. 3) A disappointing end. BUMMER! However, I’m glad you were able to connect with these characters and found some good things in this story!
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…The Winner’s Crime Blog Tour Interview with author Marie Rutkoski + GiveawayMy Profile

  2. says

    ​I didn’t even read the book and Ori sounds like a cringe-worthy character!! But at least there was a connection with Vee, thank goodness, right? It really is disappointing when you’re done with a book and you just feel MEH about the whole dang reading experience! ​Rashika darling…may the next book you read be EPIC!!! ♥
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  3. says

    YES! I am trying to write my review of this now, and I don’t even know how, because…. what exactly happened here!? Like you, the supernatural stuff really threw me off, and I don’t know how to explain it either. (Which, let’s face it, is bad news when trying to write a review!) I just felt like the story with Amber and Violet and Ori was enough without throwing supernatural stuff in. Great review, I am sorry that this didn’t quite work for you either!
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted…Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren OliverMy Profile

  4. says

    I really dislike it when a book makes no sense as well, so I feel like I might not enjoy this one as much either. I do really like the sound of the relatable narrators and creepy atmosphere but…if the ending is really weird :/
    Hmm…might wait out for some more reviews
    Nara recently posted…Where Are All the Male Protagonists?My Profile

  5. says

    I didn’t enjoy Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls though I’ve been meaning to read other novels by her. Yet, I feel like this is one I might struggle with just as you did. With Imaginary Girls I definitely didn’t enjoy the ending so that clouded my enjoyment of that novel quite a bit so this is probably also not for me. Thanks for your thorough and honest review, Rashika! :)
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…ARC Review: Shadow Scale by Rachel HartmanMy Profile

  6. says

    I had troubles with this one too unfortunately. In fact, after your review I officially marked it as DNF because I’ve been on the same page for like months now lol. It started out fairly great but idk, it’s been tough for me to make any progress and honestly I have so many other books to focus on. I also think this choice of mine to DNF was because I recently read The Scared Lies of Minnow Bly, which also featured a prison setting. However, I found myself a lot more invested in the story-line and characters. It made me feel, while this one honestly didn’t bring anything out of me other than an appreciation for the quality writing. Cause seriously, Nova is actually so talented at writing! I’m envious of it for sure.

    I can see why the supernatural aspect of this one would detract. From what I’ve read so far I think a more natural (yet still super creepy!) explanation would have been a lot more fitting. Sometimes a supernatural route can feel like the easy and conventional route to take in a story, and I feel like that’s what your trying to convey through this review? That it was inorganic and created a lot of unnecessary questions? It also sucks that it appears the ending was tainted due to this supernatural aspect.

    Lovely review though Rashika, I have to commend you for actually reviewing this one in a super honest way. Lol I don’t think I will review The Walls Around Us, just because I’m finding it hard to formulate my own views I have on this book. I think this one really is a case by case basis though, and can certainly see why there are so many 5 star reviews out there.
    Larissa recently posted…Blog Tour: Dead to Me by Mary McCoyMy Profile

  7. says

    I love the cover, but the contents sound pretty confusing to be honest, I couldn’t even follow the premise. I like creepiness, but only when you don’t see it coming. A book that promises to be dark and delicious rarely works for me and both characters seem a little too unrealistic, not to mention that ending. I’m having a real issue with so many wanky endings lately. They just don’t seem to do the book justice. But Kit Kat’s make EVERYTHING better *runs off to buy some of my own*

    Lovely review poppet and hopefully your next read is much, MUCH better <3
    Kelly recently posted…The Giver by Lois LowryMy Profile

  8. says

    That’s so weird, I was sure I saw a positive review by you on Goodreads, but it must have been my imagination. O.O Oh no, that was Faye, I think, lol. Well, that’s unfortunate. I agree that it was a little ”weird” and very creepy and hit or miss and just the kind of book you have to be open-minded about but I just found it SO refreshing, you know?? I’ve never read a book quite like this one and the writing absolutely did it for me. I didn’t find it THAT spectacular though since it had no plot and it was long so I ended up giving it a 3 star or 3.5 star rating. Great review!!
    Lola recently posted…Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund HodgeMy Profile

  9. says

    I can totally relate to your entire second paragraph, that was my exact experience with Of Scars and Stardust. I just had too many questions and the book didn’t provide the answers. When things don’t make sense like that I get so frustrated! Add that with the lackluster ending, I’m out. It’s really too bad! Great review though :3
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