Prepare to have your mind blown.
I will admit, I was trepidatious going into this one. I wasn't a big fan of Imaginary Girls and I thought this author just wasn't for me. But wow, this one blew me away. The writing style is really unique, it features a dual narrative that switches between ghost and girl, past and present but also has a strange time overlap. I was skeptical about how well this would work but, once I got used to it, it really did. There are actually three real main characters, Amber, a girl convicted of murder but widely believe to be innocent, Ori, a girl convicted of murder and widely believed to be a stone cold killer and Violet, a ballet dancer widely believed to be heartless. Amber is a very sympathetic character and Violet is decidedly, not. I applaud the choice of Amber as narrator. The obvious choice would have been Ori, with Amber as a mildly interesting side character, but I don't think that would have had the impact that Amber did. Vi is a pretty despicable character. She is driven by her desire to be a dancer, at any cost, and seems willing to push aside and stop on anyone who gets in her way. She is standoffish at best and downright mean at worst. Through both narrators, we get a fascinating view into their sense of guilt and the impact that it does (or doesn't) have on the psyche of a young girl.
The Walls Around Us holds two big mysteries. Interestingly enough, we learn the ending of both of them fairly early on. The rest of the novel is spent discovering the how and why which could have become tedious and boring, but didn't. I actually spent most of the book enthralled in both plotlines and created various theories as to the motivation behind the events. Through the story, we also glimpse a fascinating world of institutionalism and the impact that it can have on young people. I am a big fan of the Netflix show Orange is the New Black and couldn't help drawing parallels between the two.
The ending did a number on my head. I have spent the last few hours thinking through the events and trying to get them straight in my head. I still haven't decided if I like things turning out the way they did or if I would have preferred something a little more cut and dry - but, if it had been, I probably wouldn't still be thinking about it, so there is that. The magical realism comes to a head and the reader is left trying to decipher what is real and what is a lie.