On Nova Ren Suma and the power of vivid

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I bought Nova Ren Suma's The Walls Around Us strictly on the power of the word-of-mouth roar this writer has accumulated over the years. Didn't read a single review. Didn't read the jacket copy. Did (confession) read the persuasive Publishers Weekly interview, but that was just for edifying fun, for my mind had already been made up.

What kind of writer is the kind of writer that other writers gush about?

What kind of writer reminds other writers of the need (importance, glory) of writing away from commercial expectations and toward one's own heart? Saying,

The Walls Around Us was a book written solely and unapologetically for me. I allowed myself to be as weird and wild as I wanted. I did not hold back. I stopped trying to write to what I thought an audience or a publisher might want from me. It was freeing and exhilarating. And the outcome – what this book has become, and the reaction it’s gotten out in the world so far – completely surprised me. I learned a lot from this process: I should probably stop worrying so much about what everyone else thinks of me more often.

What kind of writer? Nova Ren Suma. (Words above from the PW interview)

I opened the book. I read the first page. What the bleeping heck, I thought. What the wondrous heck. This Suma is a writer, just like everybody said.

First sentences.
We went wild that hot night. We howled, we raged, we screamed. We were girls—some of us fourteen and fifteen; some sixteen, seventeen—but when the locks came undone, the doors of our cells gaping open and no one to shove us back in, we made the noise of savage animals, of men.
Sometimes a writer will take her foot of the gas after the first stellar page or two, then just lay out, in ordinary fashion, the plot, the themes, the (I am sorry to have to use this word) message. Not Suma. Her exaltation of and in language can be found on this book's every page. Her willingness to risk. Here she is, for example, describing an attempted escape from the juvenile detention center where much of this supernatural story takes place. There's a storm going on out there. There's a girl trying to get away.
I caught the rest in flashes. It wasn't that I couldn't focus; it was the lightning, the summer storm raging through the window. She'd be dark, and then she'd go bright. Her yellow hair black, her yellow hair white. I caught her, foot kicking out and the perfect hit in the center of the glass that caved in. Then came the second and third kicks that made it shatter. She'd gouged open the window into the night.
I'm going to call that urgent pattering. I'm going to say I felt the night blow through.

And how about this:
I have this distant memory, hanging on a ratty clothesline in the backyard of my mind, and in this memory, I am running. There I am, running fast and hard for that window as if it's a set of doors that will soon be slamming closed to passengers and I'll lose my chance. I will lose at all chances forever. That feels real enough.
The ratty clothesline in the backyard of my mind. Damn, Suma. Damn.

I am not in the habit of reading supernatural paranormal whatever it is that critics might be calling The Walls Around Us. I cannot tell you where this book falls within the canon. I can only say please count me in to the rapidly growing Nova Ren Suma fan club. She tossed conventional expectations aside. She wrote for herself. She had fun. She was not locked into The Ideas Others Have About What Makes for YA Fame and Glory. And look at what she made—and how the world is responding.

We need, we want, we celebrate the new. Think less of what others think of you.


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