Friday, March 20, 2015

Me on The Walls Around Us

Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

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.

The Walls Around Us is dark, mysterious, and enthralling. It's about truth and lies, guilt and innocence. It's about the ways we blame other people. It's about the ways girls love and hate each other and themselves.

Amber is locked away, philosophical after her years separated from the outside world. Violet is on the outside, exposed, leading a charmed life. Between them, their stories, their memories, their actions, we find Ori. We find the ways they're connected. Through Ori, we discover the truth.

The book itself is deep and poetic, the language rich, like it's been narrated, retold. From Amber comes years of imprisonment, years of relection on the past, of knowing those around her by their names and their crimes. Knowing them but not knowing them. It sounds more like a hive mind, the number of times Amber uses 'us' instead of 'them.' On the other side is Violet, a dichotomy. An extremely skilled ballerina, a young woman with a bright future ahead of her. Someone whose opinion of those around her is no where close to positive. The chip on her shoulder is there, massive, revealed in childhood memories, and it's warped her into someone who respects little beyond herself.

Who we are on the inside, who is seen on the outside. The ways we look at people when we only see what's on the outside. We never know the sadness, the anger, the beauty that's on the inside. We never know the truth.

Girls are kind, are supportive, are vicious. Relationships, friendships, connections, between girls are volatile. We support as we talk behind their backs. We love as we hate. We vilify as we rise up and speak out as a group. Where is the line drawn between friend and enemy? How does it start? Why do we do this to ourselves? Inescapable jealousy? The overwhelming desire to not be alone, to always have someone nearby telling us we're good, even when we're tired of her being better?

This book is haunting, vivid with description, heavy with stories and tales, truths and memories. This is about the girls we praise and the girls we ignore, the girls we believe and the girls we condemn. A must-read.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Algonquin through NetGalley.)

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