The Walls Around Us
Nova Ren Suma
Algonquin Young Readers
advance copy received from NetGalley
Two eighteen-year-old girls, Amber, a juvenile prison inmate for several years, and Violet, a ballerina soon headed to New York to pursue her dreams, are connected through Violet’s best friend Ori and the incident that landed her in the same facility as Amber. Alternating narratives from Amber and Violet’s points of view reveal mysterious occurrences on both sides. In the present Violet gets a blood soaked bouquet following her last performance with her ballet studio, reminding her of some past event that landed Ori in juvenile detention where Violet never once visited her. In the past the doors at the Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention Center suddenly open with no correctional officers in sight to prevent the teen girls from escaping and Amber sees a girl who doesn’t belong there. The narratives collide when Violet finally makes a visit to the now abandoned Aurora Hills prison where she, Amber, and Ori all find a kind of supernatural closure around a violent incident one night in a tunnel of trees behind the auditorium during Ori and Violet’s ballet practice. The pacing of the book is slower than many young adult novels, but the mystery of what happened to land Ori in prison and what role Violet played in it will keep you reading. This novel is hard to put into a clear genre – crime fiction, magical realism, contemporary fiction? – and some things are left unclear in the end, which some readers may find frustrating. However I think most will find the open-endedness leaves room for the reader to decide how everything worked out.