the walls around us

I just finished The Walls Around Us (IndieBound) by Nova Ren Suma, and wow.

This book is really creepy and really good, and most importantly, it’s really different from other YA books. You haven’t read it before. I haven’t. And I’m glad I did.

It’s about ballerinas. I don’t particularly care about ballet, but I cared about these two ballerinas a lot. It’s also about juvenile detention. I care a whole lot about juvenile detention, having worked in diversion (i.e. the thing kids get sent to do as a last chance before ending up in juvie) and having thought, when I went to library school, that working in a detention hall as a librarian is what I wanted to do. It’s also about the twistiness of memory and how scary it is not to be able to trust your own brain. Even if you don’t have dementia or a brain tumor, I’m sure you can relate to that feeling. Also, there are girls of all colors here, and frankly, the light ones are considered weirder and more out of place than the brown ones, which I gather would be pretty accurate to the juvie setting, since we all know that prison and the “justice” system are not racially just at all.

It would be silly to try to describe the plot of the novel, because it’s twisty, and to say anything is to say it all, kind of like when you try to describe E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. The most I can say is that someone is in juvie and someone else is not, someone is haunted by guilt and someone else may be a haunting herself, and it will take you the full book to know exactly what just happened.

While a bit more bark than bite, overall, I thought this novel was quite satisfying with its twists, its subtle social commentary, its lovely descriptions of ballet (I never knew about The Firebird, but it sounds fascinating and a lot like the Crane Wife, and now I want to see it performed), its distinct secondary characters, the palpable feel of danger, and the true I-didn’t-see-it-coming ending (I loved We Were Liars, but I saw it coming). It comes out next month, and you’re going to read it because I said so.

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