“Some girls make enemies out of other girls, and you don’t even know why.” – Violet, The Walls Around Us
The last time the mighty Michelle Hodkin visited Books & Books to sign copies of the titles in her Mara Dyer trilogy, we spoke of many things – Joe Hill, American Horror Story, @_FloridaMan – but she raved about one thing in particular: Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us. Even though Young Adult isn’t really my jam, I eventually made a note in my phone because 1) Hodkin’s fervor for this book was contagious, and 2) “Nova Ren Suma” was a collection of Star Wars villain syllables I’d never remember.
I got the Advanced Readers Copy and learned that The Walls Around Us isn’t just good, or even good for a YA novel, it’s great. It’s poetic, with filigree sentences that weave together beautifully. It’s atmospheric, a Shirley Jackson-esque haunt that envelops the reader from the first page. And it’s suspenseful, with The Gotta* for days.
Amber’s voice, speaking for all the girls imprisoned in Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention Center, reminded me of the group narrator in Hannah Pittard’s The Fates Will Find Their Way. Nova Ren Suma uses it to great effect here, contrasting it with the narcissistic Violet. I loved this book. Its pain is specified with a jeweler’s precision, elevating it above much Angst-of-the-Week YA. Its plot the best kind of amble, one which at times seems aimless, or forgone, but which is anything but. It’s lush, compelling, and it doesn’t worry about having Things to Say about the teenage condition, it just makes you forget there’s a world outside of its pages.
Nova Ren Suma is one hell of a storyteller.