Book Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren SumaAuthor:  Nova Ren Suma
Genre: Young adult, magical realism, fantasy
Publisher: Algonquin
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
319 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, but couldn’t open the file (wrong format for Kindle), so I checked it out from the library. Despite that, thank you so much to Algonquin for granting me access!!

This entire book felt like a dream, which, I suppose, is part of the point. Magical realism is always fun, and The Walls Around Us was just so cool. It was trippy and strange and wonderful. You never quite know what is real and what is imagined, because none of the characters really know either. I was so confused most of the time and I loved it. Most of the time when I read a book this confusing during which I have absolutely no idea what’s happening, I’m not a big fan, especially if the book is doing it for the sole purpose of confusing you, but in the case of The Walls Around Us, I actually really liked it.

The prose was wonderful. When I started the first page, I was kind of worried. It’s…different. But after the first three pages, I was hooked. It flows easily and its use of repetition felt like a chant, a song. Again, it’s different and odd, but, for me, it was easy to read and very, very cool. The characters were all complex, especially the ones inside the detention center. Just like their crimes, their guilt wasn’t black and white, and this changed them from horrible thieves, murderers, and prisoners into real people.

I think the one thing I didn’t really like was that the book felt a little…meandering? I think that’s the right word. I wasn’t expecting action-packed or anything like that, but parts of it felt a little long-winded. On the other hand, I LOVED the bizarre, odd, confusing end so much. SO. MUCH. I think it fit perfectly with the strangeness of this magical story.

For me, the inscription before Part IV of the book perfectly sums this one up:

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.”

Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

The bottom line: The Walls Around Us is really different from what you’re expecting. A little Black Swan, but with a bunch of other things thrown in. It’s confusing and strange and absolutely wonderful. I don’t think this will be a book for everyone, though. Personally? I want to read more by Nova Ren Suma.

Rating: 7.5 – between pretty good and freaking fantastic

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9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

  1. I am happy to hear that you enjoyed this one! For whatever reason I have been hesitant to read it. I really don’t know why. It sounds unique! 🙂 It will help me knowing you described it as different before I read. Thanks for the review!

  2. I don’t read much magical realism, but I really liked The Walls Around Us. I felt confused for most of the book, too, but somehow that worked. I also need to check out Nova Ren Suma’s other books!

    If you liked this book, I recommend The Enchanted. It’s also set in a prison, but it’s quite different from The Walls Around It. It was actually my first experience with magical realism, and I loved it! (It’s not a happy book, so be warned.)

    • I haven’t heard of The Enchanted, but I’ll definitely check it out if you say it’s like this one! The Walls Around Us was really cool! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who liked the confusion. 🙂

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