Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.
Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave...
About Nova Ren Suma
Nova Ren Suma is the author of the YA novels THE WALLS AROUND US as well as the YA novels IMAGINARY GIRLS and 17 & GONE, which were both named 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound by YALSA. Her middle-grade novel, DANI NOIR, was reissued for a YA audience under the title FADE OUT. She has a BA in writing & photography from Antioch College and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has been awarded fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Millay Colony, and an NEA fellowship for a residency at the Hambidge Center. She worked for years behind the scenes in publishing, at places such as HarperCollins, Penguin, Marvel Comics, and RAW Books, and now she teaches writing workshops. She is from various small towns across the Hudson Valley and lives and writes in New York City.
Find Nova online at novaren.com and on her blog distraction99.com.
“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 long 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.
‘She was coming. She was the next thing to come, after the locks. Once she was here, everything would go wrong. Of that I felt certain.’
Amber is an inmate at Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center who hasn’t seen freedom since the age of thirteen when she was arrested for murder. One night, much like all the rest, something changed though and all the doors of the prison were open and the girls that resided there briefly tasted a freedom that they never thought they’d witness again. Violet is a successful ballet dancer headed to New York City to attend Juilliard. Her story involves her best friend Ori and how after one life altering afternoon, Ori was taken away to Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center. Violet, Amber, and Ori are all linked together, intricately, with isolated secrets just waiting to be revealed.
The Walls Around Us is told in alternating points of view by two unreliable narrators: Amber and Violet. Amber is a convicted murderer yet her story of how she got to where she convinces us to see past straight black and white and to the gray that exists in-between. The amount of time she’s spent behind bars has caused her to lose her individuality, taking comfort in seeing herself as a piece of the consolidated unit of girls that share her fate. Violet is a pretentious prima donna; the narcissistic rich girl. Rather than feeling upset over the loss of her best friend three years past she only sees her flawed history with Ori as something that may pose as a deterrent on the road to her pristine future. The voices are vastly different and easy to keep separate, however, the stories of both girls seem they couldn’t possibly fit together. Keeping the facts straight as well as the intersecting timelines that occur can be trying, but the payoff is incredible. This is only my second Nova Ren Suma story and I must say that her stories are something remarkable. She writes characters with such conviction that you quickly lose yourself in classifications of ‘fiction’.
What was most incredible about this book was the realistic view of juvenile delinquency and the discrepancies in the criminal justice system. The harsh reality of discrimination was never more evident when one suspect is immediately excused of guilt while the multi-racial friend is immediately accused without much question. While it would be easy to remain focused on the horrible situation of the innocent victim, I found myself focused on the atrocious sort of person that could stand back and watch a friend be accused of a crime they weren’t responsible for. It should come as no surprise that a story as haunting as this could credibly pull off shades of the supernatural as well. The line between fantasy and reality is muddied turning this story of juvenile delinquency into an eerie story of guilt and innocence. Beautifully written, completely enthralling… I can’t seem to find the words to do this one justice. It’s definitely a must-read.
Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns home two years later, a precarious and deadly balance waits. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
Imaginary Girls is a masterfully distorted vision of family reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, laced with twists that beg for their secrets to be kept.
“…down in what was once Olive, you could still find the townspeople who never left. They looked up into their murky sky, waiting to catch sight of our boat bottoms and our fishing lines, counting our trespassing feet.”
Ruby and Chloe are sisters that live in upstate New York together. Their mother is forever absent and the two have learned to only rely on one another. The town they live in is located near a massive reservoir that is reported to have submerged a town called Olive, and older sister Ruby tells the story of the town as if the people are still down there living their daily lives. One night at a party taking place at the reservoir, Ruby boasts that her sister could swim across the reservoir and if so inclined even go down and get a souvenir from Olive. The only thing she brings back from her swim is a lone rowboat in the middle of the reservoir where the body of a dead girl lies.
After the rowboat incident, Chloe moves to Pennsylvania to live with her dad and step-mother, leaving Ruby behind. A random text every now and then is the only communication Chloe has with her sister, but two years go by and her sister has appeared suddenly in town to coerce her to return, insisting that things are back to normal. Chloe does return and finds that things are in fact back to the way they were, but they aren’t truly. Something eerie and mysterious is at work and Chloe knows that Ruby’s the reason for it all. The strange stories her sister tells about the town of Olive, and of the reservoir, and of the dead girl named London are all connected somehow and Chloe’s curiosity is overpowering. She trusts her sister implicitly despite the strangeness that her hometown now exudes.
Imaginary Girls is a mesmerizing tale that will leave you contemplating the magic that threads itself through this novel. It’s a strangely horrific tale with a subtle delivery causing the eeriness to come upon you slowly. The story of the town of Olive and the people that still live down there. Imagining their eyes following you as you swim in the reservoir. Ruby’s enthralling power and influence she holds over the town and its inhabitants is intriguing until she begins to take it too far.
Suma’s writing will captivate you with its skillful blend of magical realism but the focal point of the story, the unbreakable bond between two sisters, makes a powerful statement.