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A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

A Room Away From the Wolves (edition 2018)

by Nova Ren Suma (Author)

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1527140,194 (3.16)2
Teenage Bina runs away to New York City's Catherine House, a young women's residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history and dark secrets, where she is drawn to her mysterious downstairs neighbor Monet.
Title:A Room Away From the Wolves
Authors:Nova Ren Suma (Author)
Info:Algonquin Young Readers (2018), 336 pages
Collections:Your library

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A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma


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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This was... Wild. I (for some dumb reason) predicted this was going to be an unassuming young adult contemporary and I was dead wrong. It's this claustrophobic, chilling, almost horror-based ghost story full of rich fictional history and gay subtext. Basically it's everything I didn't know I needed in my life. ( )
  angelgay | Jul 1, 2020 |
I really wanted to like this book, as it's well-written and it portrays a sad and desperate childhood with a deft hand, but I found the book so confusing I couldn't follow what was going on most of the time. I feel like the author was trying to enhance the horror movie feel by having things skip around and be non-linear and not fit together, but I abandoned the book 40% through because it made my brain hurt. ( )
  dreamweaversunited | Apr 28, 2020 |
The day I left for New York City, the summer heat was already clammy, the sky bright white. I stood on the side of the road with an old suitcase and a fresh black eye.
When Bina runs away from home, she’s determined to follow in her mother’s footsteps: move to New York City and experience true urban bohemian life at the Catherine House, a women’s boarding house in Greenwich Village. But the Catherine House is full of secrets and mysteries, and leaving is a lot harder than it should be.

A Room Away From the Wolves utterly perplexed me, and not in a good way. I can tell Suma wants to tell a story about troubled young women and the reasons why they get into trouble. I can tell she wants to write an ode to a city that clearly means a great deal to her. I can tell she wants to write about abusive relationships and the residual trauma they leave.

But if there was ever a book about absolutely nothing, it’s this book. Because A Room Away From the Wolves makes no goddamn sense.

The whole book is dripping with mystery. What is Catherine House, and what happened to Catherine? Is her portrait alive, or maybe sentient in a supernatural sense? What happened to Bina’s mother at Catherine House, and what the heck is going on with the opal ring? Are all the residents dead or in some kind of limbo? Was Bina dead the whole time?

Mystery is good. Mystery is interesting. But not a single one of the above questions ever get answered. It’s just completely unclear what the heck is going on the entire time. I was into the mystery aspect, until I realized about ten pages from the end that none of my questions were going to be answered.

I really admire Suma’s desire to tackle difficult topics and themes. But she has to be willing to provide answers of some sort to the questions she raises. That lack of clarity completely destroys the book. ( )
  miri12 | May 31, 2019 |
“Maybe you thought you knew something you don’t. Something you can’t know yet. Because you’re not supposed to.”

Nova Ren Suma’s A Room Away from the Wolves can be summed up entirely by this quote, for both the protagonist and the reader. Categorized as magical realism, the story opens with a girl jumping from the roof of a building only to get up from the cracked concrete and walk away unharmed. Strange things continue to happen as the story goes on, such as photographs that move of their own accord, the mandatory curfew and what happens if its missed, and the strange door Bina’s room with a staircase leading to nowhere.

Main character Sabina, or Bina for short, simultaneously both runs away and is expunged from her home. She seeks out Catherine House, a boarding house for girls, where her mother sought refuge as a young woman. This is really the clearest part of the story, Bina’s need for independence and fondness for her mother. She’s constantly told she won’t know things until she’s ready, excluded from social circles of the other girls in the house, and seems to be in a perpetual state of confusion. Unfortunately, this is also how the reader feels for most of the novel. The story poses more questions than answers even upon reaching the unsatisfactory ending.

For those who’ve read Suma’s superbly written The Walls Around Us, they’ll likely recognize the same kinds of patterns emerge and have an inkling of what’s not being revealed, or rather implied, until the close of the story. That is where the similarities end though. A Room Away from the Wolves offers a poetic writing style for readers intrigued by a book’s language, but apart from that, readers end the story feeling like they’re in a room away from clarity. ( )
  nframke | Apr 30, 2019 |
*Thank you to the publishers for a free copy in exchange for an honest review!*

I am such a fan of Nova Ren Suma’s writing. It’s always gorgeous and perpetually confusing and I just LOVE it.

A Room Away From the Wolves is honestly no different. This story follows Bina, short for Sabina, who suddenly finds herself kicked out of her own home (temporarily). And it’s nothing new – when she was little, she and her mother ran away and began their own hitchhiking journey. Eighteen years ago, Bina’s mother had taken refuge at Catherine House. Now, Bina returns, but she finds that there are things about the house – and about her mother – that she never knew.

Nova Ren Suma’s writing style has consistently been one of my favorites, especially when it comes to magical realism type stories – she does a great job balancing concrete and abstract language, which is even more powerful because I found myself questioning it all – Is it real? Is it in the character’s head?

The plot is magical, and I’ve finished reading the book, true. But I’m still confused, and in a good way. This is one of those books you’d want to reread immediately after, because you hope that maybe the second time around, you’ll get more answers. A Room Away From the Wolves filled me with the best kind of trepidation.

Bina is an extremely flawed main character, and that’s good because it’s more realistic, and yet because of that I found myself frustrated at her actions, while still symp/empathizing with her. There were definitely other characters that I wanted to know more about and wanted to see more of, but this book does leave room for lots of imagination.

Other than that, I would recommend this book to readers of magical realism and fantasy – it’s got a mysterious vibe to it while simultaneously being able to juggle a setting in the contemporary world. ( )
  CatherineHsu | Dec 21, 2018 |
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Teenage Bina runs away to New York City's Catherine House, a young women's residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history and dark secrets, where she is drawn to her mysterious downstairs neighbor Monet.

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