Not having read The Walls Around Us (but I promise – I do own a copy!), I wasn’t prepared for the very amazing way that Nova Ren Suma can tell a story. Wow. I’m completely blown away by her almost lyrical and mesmerizing writing style, complete with so much in terms of descriptions of characters, settings, and memories. I’m also in awe of the way that she puts together a mystery that really keeps you guessing and holding on to see exactly how the story plays out.
I read the synopsis for A Room Away From the Wolves several times, and for whatever reason, I couldn’t really process what it was about, so when I started reading it, I kind of couldn’t remember what I was supposed to be expecting. I learned from the very first few pages that I was in for a one of a kind adventure, though, and I was super excited to keep reading.
“My mother liked to say that your worst mistake can lead to the best thing to ever happen in your life, that sometimes you’ll look up and see you found happiness from something that almost wrecked you to pieces.”
Sabrina, or Bina, has always dreamed of running off to the city with her mother, who was an actress in plays when she was younger, and loved the city life. No matter how often her mother promised she would one day take Bina there, it never happened, and Bina wants to see what is so wonderful about the city life that her mother talked it up so much for years and years.
Bina has been through a lot – her abusive father put her and her mother through so much, so when they finally left him and moved out, she was thrilled to not have to deal with it anymore. When her mother met someone new, someone who promised to help her, and then married him, Bina wasn’t sure what to make of it – especially when she found out that he had two daughters – her new stepsisters. Bina and her stepsisters never got along, and the girls spent so much of their time trying to get Bina into trouble (which she did on her own several times, as well), and eventually, Bina’s mother decided that Bina needed to go away for a while, to stay somewhere else.
Bina took matters into her own hands, however, and decided to go to Catherine House – a house in the city where her mother once stayed when she was young.
When she arrives, she notices how strange things are – the residents at Catherine House seem a bit strange, and the woman who runs the house insisted that she talked to Catherine herself when she called, a woman who has been dead for a very long time.
“They were all strangers to us. The house may have seemed like a magnet to tragedy, a patch of shrieking static in the otherwise calm. What went on inside they would never know.”
Despite the strange things going on, and the fact that she feels unwanted by the other tenants in the house, Bina stays. She eventually gets to know Monet, a girl who she meets when she is looking for Catherine House, and the two develop a sort of friendship with each other.
“‘Sometimes a person can’t tell you what you already know,’ she said. ‘Sometimes you have to see it for yourself. Then you’ll believe.'”
As time goes on, more and more strange things begin to occur, and Bina finds out that maybe she was meant to be a part of something bigger – and she also learns why her mother ran away from Catherine House all those years ago.
A Room Away From the Wolves is a creepy, atmospheric ghost story that is brought to life by the settings, characters, and mystery behind Catherine House, a boarding house for girls who are down on their luck or need somewhere to stay. Bina navigates through the house and learns the secrets and mysteries that she honestly had no idea were something she would ever be involved in.
Bina’s character seems to be a bit unreliable to me, especially as the book went on. I honestly tend to like that in a character, though, because it really keeps me guessing and always makes me wonder what is going to happen next. This was definitely true with Bina and her situation.
I loved the whole creepy old house atmosphere that the book had going on for its main setting. Nova Ren Suma went into great detail to describe every single thing, and it made me feel like I was right there with Bina, experiencing everything she was. I loved it! It really brought the story to life.
A Room Away From the Wolves was a bit slow in terms of pacing, but in this case, it wasn’t a bad thing at all. It was a slow build up that really brought anticipation into the story. I was a little confused by the ending, however – I didn’t expect it at all.
After reading this one, I know for a fact that I have to go back and read The Walls Around Us. I loved this book (and it’s gorgeous cover – it’s so sparkly!). This was the Gothic, atmospheric story that I have been hoping for!
Praise for A ROOM AWAY FROM THE WOLVES
“Terrific . . . a Gothic love letter to secret places of New York City and the runaway girls who find them.” —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble, 2016 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Fiction
“Suma drapes her dark, enigmatic novel in a gauzy, supernatural veil, under which readers will observe a runaway teen’s search for safety and an understanding of her mother’s past . . . Suma’s surreal writing examines the blurred edges of life, lies, freedom, and mother-daughter relationships, leaving the reader with questions and a tangled sense of wonder.” —Julia Smith for Booklist
“Nova Ren Suma surpasses herself with this gorgeously-told, mesmerizing, tense and twisted story about the ways in which mothers fail their daughters, the lies that daughters tell their mothers, and the love that girls show one another when all the wolves are closing in.” —Laura Ruby, National Book Award Finalist and Printz-Winning author of Bone Gap
“Eerie and atmospheric as only Nova Ren Suma can write, A Room Away From the Wolves is a page-turning thrill. Its unforgettable protagonist is cut from the sharpest sentences and the achiest pieces of life—I couldn’t tear my eyes away. Gulp this one down and prepare to be left shivery and spooked and a little bit heartbroken.” —Emily X.R. Pan, New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After
Nova Ren Suma is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Walls Around Us, a finalist for an Edgar Award. Her new novel A Room Away from the Wolves is forthcoming September 4, 2018, from Algonquin. She also wrote Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone and is co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology. She has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in the Hudson Valley, spent most of her adult life in New York City, and now lives in Philadelphia.
PHOTO CREDIT: ERIK RYERSON
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