Violet is a ballet dancer. Her best friend Ori is dead, and it’s Violet’s fault. Ori died because of what happened in the smoking tunnel. If it weren’t for that awful day, Ori would never have been sent to the juvenile detention centre in the first place. She’d still be alive.
Amber is locked in Aurora Hills Juvenile detention centre indefinitely. She was sentenced for the murder of her step-father. Most of the other girls in the centre believe Amber to be innocent.
The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma is a ghost story. It deals in hauntings by the dead and by the consequences of actions. It’s full of unreliable narrators.
I love unreliable narrators.
The Walls Around Us is a book about guilt and innocence. It’s about girls who convince themselves of innocence, despite the obviousness of guilt. It’s about what it is to be perceived as innocent while guilty at heart.
It shows what destruction the presumption of guilt wreaks on the lives of the truly innocent.
The prose intrigues. Reading Violet, we are forced to unravel her lies, to view her from a distance even as we experience the workings of her mind. The girl is crazy. Nothing about her is likeable.
I loved every second of her.
It takes real talent to attach an audience to a character who is heartless, controlling, manipulative and selfish, but Nova Ren Suma does it seemingly effortlessly. A less delicate hand would have made her character over the top, but Suma has written her in such a way as to make her utterly believable. She’s an unassuming sociopathic ballet dancer, and I had great fun being disgusted by her.
The scenes taking place in the prison, from Amber’s point of view, were also wonderful. Each line echoed with the girl’s loneliness and anger and grim acceptance of the present. I really enjoyed the collective voice often used during Amber’s sections of the book, as if Aurora Hills were a character of itself. It makes sense, the building looms large in book both when it is full and empty.
There were times however, particularly toward the end, where I found events and revelations a little confusing. I also find reading books like this, where from the get-go we know that a character has died, a little difficult to read, as I’m so preoccupied by the ending that I find myself less focussed on the present. Even before I finished, I found myself thinking that such a layered novel would probably seriously benefit from some rereading.
The Walls Around Us is creepy, unapologetic, vengeful, sad and full of longing. It’s a great way to pass a lazy summer evening alone.