16. The Walls Around Us – Nova Ren Suma
The Year of the Pig is not over yet, but for my pigs it has been the year of Pig Death. Granted, one was terminal illness and two were really old age-related if you want to get down to it, but still. Three. I really should be reading and writing about A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck, as an aspirational thing or an impossible new year’s resolution, but, that would just be a title thing and a thing I want in year form. Instead, I have chosen a magical realism tale about a wrongfully imprisoned teen, her rightfully imprisoned cellmate, and the conscience-less ballerina who made their meeting happen…right before everyone in the child prison died and got all ghosty. Spoiler. Everyone dies. That’s a life spoiler.
The Walls Around Us is also a reminder of how talent makes people jealous. Even other talented people who are just insecure and need to realize that another talented person existing, especially one who does not have the advantages of money and support, is not going to hurt them. Advantages hurt people all the time, the ones who don’t have them, anyway.
Being born into or forced into a bad situation hurts too, which is why Amber the murderer in the story gained my sympathy to a large extent. Plus I totally get why she wants to dominate the book cart in juvie. Ori, who gets thrown into juvie for a crime she did not commit, well, she wasn’t born into good circumstances either and she is a massively talented ballerina. So she apparently has to pay, so that Violet the haver of all advantages and also technically a talented ballerina doesn’t have anyone to outshine her or make it clear she’s a criminal around.
The language in this book is beautiful and poetic in a way that did not bother me for once. I believe it’s because of how grounded it seemed. It didn’t seem like Nova Ren Suma was trying to avoid character development or the realities of these characters so she could wax lyrical about guilt or make life in prison an escapist fantasy (suck it, Suckerpunch), but it’s still a very unsettling story, both in plot and reading experience.