THE WALLS AROUND US

Nova Ren Suma

“Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one dead. 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,

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“Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one dead. 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.

Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

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  • Algonquin Young Readers
  • Paperback
  • March 2016
  • 336 Pages
  • 9781616205904

Buy the Book

$9.95

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About Nova Ren Suma

Nova Ren Suma has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and a BA in writing and photography from Antioch College and has been awarded a fiction fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is the author of Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone.

Praise

“With evocative language, Suma subtly explores the balance of power between the talented and the mediocre, the rich and the poor, the brave and the cowardly … To reveal more would be to uncover the bloody heart that beats beneath the floorboards of this urban-legend-tinged tale.”
—The New York Times

“A gorgeously written, spellbinding ghost story … Nova Ren Suma’s prose hums with such power and fury that when the explosions do happen, they seem unavoidable.” —Chicago Tribune

“Unputdownable … the well-paced plot reveals guilt, innocence, and dark truths that will not stay hidden.” —The Boston Globe

“A suspenseful tour de force.” Libba Bray, author of The Diviners and A Great and Terrible Beauty

Discussion Questions

1. Is either Amber or Violet a sympathetic narrator? Why or why not?

2. On page 280, Amber says, “I couldn’t know for sure if our newest inmate, Orianna Speerling, regretted going outside after her friend that day.” What do you suspect?

3. When Orianna receives the only red cup in the dining hall, her reaction is markedly different than that of her fellow inmates. Why does she respond the way she does? Why do you think she influences the other girls’ feelings about the red cup going forward? How does Ori change the mood of the inmates in general?

4. Three years after Ori’s death, Violet still believes she is the inferior dancer, even though she’s become the star. How do Violet’s insecurity and jealousy shape her character and actions? Why does she remain jealous of Orianna even after Orianna’s death?

5. Violet’s account of the crime changes as she repeats her telling of it. What do you make of the different accounts she gives us over the course of the novel? Similarly, Amber gradually changes some details in the stories she tells us. How do the various versions of events—and their timing—affect your feelings about Violet and Amber? How do they affect your reading experience?

6. Why do you think being in charge of the book cart is so important to Amber?

7. On page 312, when the officers are counting the girls in the dining hall, Amber says, “It seems we are meant to stay at full capacity, which for this facility is forty-two girls.” How does the number forty-two play a role in the novel? Why do you think the author decided it was important to keep the number of inmates at forty-two?

8. How did you interpret the ending? Do you think all readers will reach the same conclusion? Why or why not?