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A Room Away From the Wolves

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Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.

Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave...

304 pages, ebook

First published September 4, 2018

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About the author

Nova Ren Suma

17 books818 followers
Nova Ren Suma is the author of the YA novels THE WALLS AROUND US as well as the YA novels IMAGINARY GIRLS and 17 & GONE, which were both named 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound by YALSA. Her middle-grade novel, DANI NOIR, was reissued for a YA audience under the title FADE OUT. She has a BA in writing & photography from Antioch College and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has been awarded fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Millay Colony, and an NEA fellowship for a residency at the Hambidge Center. She worked for years behind the scenes in publishing, at places such as HarperCollins, Penguin, Marvel Comics, and RAW Books, and now she teaches writing workshops. She is from various small towns across the Hudson Valley and lives and writes in New York City.

Find Nova online at novaren.com and on her blog distraction99.com.

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5 stars
213 (13%)
4 stars
385 (25%)
3 stars
586 (38%)
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288 (18%)
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68 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 424 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
September 5, 2018
2 1/2 stars. I tried so very hard to love this book, but I really struggled with it.

Nova Ren Suma's writing and stories are always somewhere between gorgeous and completely what-the-actual-fuck bonkers. Despite its weirdness, I really enjoyed The Walls Around Us, but I confess that was the first of her books I was able to finish. This one, I feel, was so hard to get through because I spent the majority of the story clueless as to what was going on.

It's really hard to become invested in a story arc when you have no idea where it's going, or what questions you should be asking. A Room Away from the Wolves presents us with what feels like a random mishmash of dropped clues and flashbacks, magical realism aspects, and - unless I am just confused, which is entirely possible - a lot of loose ends.

It starts with Bina being kicked out of her house by her mother, who trusts her new husband and his daughters over her own daughter. Bina is supposed to go stay with a friend but she instead decides to run away to New York City and find the mysterious Catherine House from her mother's stories. But... who is Catherine? Is something supernatural going on at the creepy boarding house? And what, exactly, happened to Bina before she came here?

Thrilling in concept; slow in execution. Much patience is required in order to get answers, and I'm just not really the kind of reader who can put up with anything for some big payoff. If I have to be bored for a couple hundred pages before I get to the goods, it's pretty much always going to be too little, too late.

I can't even decide if there were a number of threads that went nowhere, or if I was actually supposed to understand something about them but missed it because the plot was so confusing and all over the place. Still, it is creepy and atmospheric. I'm sure more patient or smarter readers than I will appreciate it.

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Profile Image for jv poore.
616 reviews213 followers
May 26, 2019
There's something surreal about Ms. Suma's writing. While I'm reading, fully immersed, I follow along just fine. With the book closed, set aside, snippets from the story still sneak into my mind and simmer. And at the end, it all makes sense--in a very broad, inexplicable kind of way.

I am affected and filled with a definite desire to share, only...I have no idea what to say. Ever. I am going to have to sweet-talk the original JV into reviewing one of her books for me.

Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,212 followers
April 10, 2018
As soon as I finished this, I flipped it back to the beginning to reread. This is a story about girls, about ghosts, and about our connections to the material things of the world (including the relationships we hold onto, even when we know we shouldn't). But, like all of Suma's books, when you come to the end and realize what she's done, you're mesmerized and curious as to just..HOW.

The writing is lush and perfect, and even though New York City doesn't instill a lot of romantic feelings for me, this book captures a tiny slice of city and the magic it holds.

Profile Image for Cortney -  The Bookworm Myrtle Beach.
864 reviews143 followers
April 16, 2020
I'm not totally sure what I just read?

I think the author is a beautiful writer, but this book confused the hell out of me. It started out really strong, but once Bina got to Catherine House, it just went downhill for me. I think the author was trying to build the mystery, but it really just confused me and left me not actually caring.

I think there is a good story in there, but it just wasn't explained well enough. And the ending?! Whaattt??

If you are looking for a book that gives you answers and a definite ending, this is not the one for you. So much wasn't explained and there was a lot I still have questions about.

Overall, I still (kind of) enjoyed it. I think. 3 stars
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews192 followers
January 3, 2019
4.5 stars

A Room Away From the Wolves is an atmospheric, unique story set in an old boarding house in New York City. It follows a bisexual Jewish girl who is trying to leave behind an abusive home situation.
This is an odd, quiet, slow-paced gem of a book, unlike everything I had ever read before, and surprisingly difficult to review. I almost feel like I should reread this to do it justice, to absorb it better, but for now I'll write how I feel about it at the moment.

If you're always looking for weird YA books, especially if you like atmospheric stories with a mystery element, I definitely recommend A Room Away From the Wolves. I feel like I could describe it as Vassa in the Night meets The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, because it has some things in common with these books (which are two of my favorite books of all times; I read this one just because it reminded me of them), but it's entirely its own thing, its own kind of weird.
However, if you're the kind of reader who likes well-defined plotlines or even just clear answers, I want to point out that you'll find none of them here. A Room Away From the Wolves is a story about moving on and second chances from the point of view of a very unreliable narrator who is deeply in denial.

I really liked reading about Bina. She is a lost girl who almost feels as if she's trapped out of time, and her narration reflects that. She feels distant, she doesn't question things the average narrator - or even the reader - would, she doesn't feel real. Usually this wouldn't be a good thing, I would say that the heavy writing overshadowed the characters and their development, but that's not what happened here. The distance is intentional, and it adds to the story and the mystery.

Everything about this book is intentionally ambiguous, and in a way it works.

I have a weakness for stories about magical buildings, especially if their magic affects the way time works. Here, I saw something similar, and I loved everything about the magical aspects. Another thing I really appreciated was the lack of explicit romance, even though I totally believe Bina and Monet's relationship wasn't completely platonic. Seeing the open ending, I have all my theories about their futures.
Also: all relevant characters were women, and I liked that.

I loved this book. The only reason it's a 4.5 and not a full five is the fact that - unlike the two other very weird books I mentioned before - it didn't make sense emotionally. It's difficult to describe without spoiling, but this is the kind of mystery book with a really interesting plot twist that, instead of making you see the story in a whole new light and making you understand the message, just confuses you further. Cool plot twist (which I suspected, by the way), now what's the point?
Maybe rereading this I would see everything differently, but that vague conclusion - while consistent with the tone of the whole story - wasn't really satisfying to me.

I recommend this to those who like books about complex mother-daughter bonds, stories with no romance, and lyrical, atmospheric writing.

[Trigger warnings for: suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, parental abuse, abusive siblings, beatings]
Profile Image for Eilonwy.
826 reviews207 followers
February 21, 2019
Before Sabina was born, her mother spent a summer at Catherine House, a boarding house for young women in NYC. So when Sabina’s mom tells her to leave the home they share with Sabina’s stepfather and stepsisters, there’s only one place she can imagine going. When she gets there, she finds that it’s a truly unusual sanctuary, filled with mysterious girls with mysterious circumstances. Most intriguing to Sabina is Monet, who lives in the room just below hers. But Monet never answers any of Sabina’s questions -- and Sabina isn’t entirely sure what her questions even are.
This is the sort of atmospheric, vague book that normally drives me crazy. But I really enjoyed it, maybe because I read it over a long weekend when the slow pace fit my having some extra time, or maybe because I met Nova Ren Suma at the Boston Book Festival (and got her signature in lavender ink, which goes perfectly with the purples on the cover) and felt more patient with this book on account of hearing her talk about it. The only other book I’ve read by her is Imaginary Girls which carries a similar hypnotic mood throughout the entire story. I’ve now found both stories somewhat unsatisfactory -- do they hold up to scrutiny at all? -- and yet utterly gripping and thought-provoking (so is scrutiny really necessary?).

Sabina is a difficult narrator. She’s both a liar and a thief, but also the victim of her stepsisters, who abuse her reputation to their own ends. This makes it hard to tell what one should believe about her, both in the present and her snippets of past. I was fascinated by trying to figure out what to believe about her. I loved that she’s both sympathetic -- she’s obviously hurt and confused, and has been unhappy for a long time -- and not sympathetic at all (sheesh, all the lying and stealing; it’s really compulsive for her). I don’t have to like a heroine to find her interesting, and Sabina never bored me.

The biggest weakness of this book for me was that the atmosphere is not all that well fleshed out, and I really wanted a bit more. The mystery of Catherine House, and the girls who live there, is just left wide open. I really would have liked to know a little more about the other girls’ backstories. I couldn’t figure out , so I would have liked a clearer mythology.

And yet, I’m not sure a clear mythology would make this a better story. I know it will stick with me more on account of the wondering than it would if everything were neatly explained.

And I do love the optimistic, hopeful ending.

So while this may deserve only 2 stars for satisfaction (and many readers have given it just that), I found it very much a 4-star reading experience. And I absolutely plan to reread it one of these days, too.
Profile Image for lucky little cat.
548 reviews106 followers
May 3, 2019
Ner, ner, ner. Pseudo-gothic psychological thriller mostly follows our angsty teen heroine as she navigates

the creepy social circle of a crrrrreaky old NYC boarding school. Plenty of rebellion and mystery brewing here. Why does a freckled, cropped-haired boarder look *exactly* like a boarder pictured in a 1920s class shot? What power does the mysterious, oft-stolen black opal ring have? Why does no one ever leave, when everyone clearly wants to go home?

Unfortunately, there's no clear-cut answer to any of these questions. The plot ducks sideways in the last chapters to reveal Oh, wait, no it doesn't.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,639 reviews2,155 followers
July 13, 2018
When I read Nova Ren Suma's first novel I had trouble settling in because her style is so unique, both real and surreal. It is hard to get your bearings in one of her books, but now I get that this is the joy of it. Her books are like impressionist paintings, looking like one thing up close and another from far away. This time I let myself relax and enjoy myself, which worked much better. She and I will never be a perfect fit, but it has nothing to do with the quality of her work, which is fantastic.
Profile Image for Holly .
1,361 reviews291 followers
September 30, 2018
I just. I'm so confused. Can someone please explain what actually happened to me? Because omg, I don't get the ending. Do I even remember this book at all? No, because it left no impression on me. And that made me so sad considering how excited for this book I was. But I don't think I even liked this, because I spent most of the time wondering what the point of it was. Maybe I'm not smart enough for this type of story. Whatever the case, I thought it just didn't come together all that well, and I kept having to pick up the pieces only to wonder how they even fit and what Catherine House really is. Look, I just have a lot of questions, and we didn't get a lot of answers, and I think this was too open-ended for me. It had some pretty writing though.
I thought that anger was very beautiful on a girl.

RATING: 2 Paw Prints!
Profile Image for Deanna.
10 reviews1 follower
September 16, 2018
Such a disappointment. I wish I'd DNF'd around 60%, but I figured I might as well finish at that point. Wasn't worth it.

There was so much happening.. and yet nothing happening. So much potential, with failed execution. So many questions, with no answers, or flimsy, insufficient ones.

This was far too confusing to be interesting to me. It's hard to get invested in it when nothing makes sense.

I'm not sure if the author thinks the reader is stupid, or if there's just some crappy writing, but there are several times where she goes so far to hint at something to the reader, then it becomes obvious, and you know exactly what she means without her having to tell you. And then she tells you. For instance, toward the end, she's in Monet's room. She sees a scarf of Monet's with a note inside, with Monet's handwriting. A message that would only make sense to her and Monet. Then the narrator says "She didn't have to sign her name. I knew." Yeah, idiot, we all know. There's also the scene where Bina asks Monet several times what she did to her father. Just a couple pages later, she asks again, then: "She knew I meant my father." OBVIOUSLY. This happened so many times. Either sloppy writing, or the author trusts her audience to interpret whatever the hell this mess is, but not to piece together obvious clues.

Bina is an idiot. There are so many times she could ask questions, like, oh I don't know, "Monet, why the hell are you going through all my things?" Or "What's the deal with this house? Why are you all so cryptic about being trapped here? Who the heck is making breakfast? What's up with the curfew? WHAT'S GOING ON?!" All her questions could be ignored or avoided, but she didn't even try asking. The ones she did ask were useless. I couldn't stand her, she didn't even try to figure out what was going on or why anything was the way it was.

I hated this book. Maybe it's just not my cup of tea, since other people seem to love it, but I thought it was crappy writing paired with a boring protagonist and flimsy plot. I really wish I'd never bothered, what a waste of time.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
316 reviews2,793 followers
September 7, 2018
Not my favorite of her’s but damn, her writing so good. Some of those sentences she puts together...reminiscent of Laini Taylor. Very lyrical and the imagery is unparalleled. The story was...well, it was weird, which is to be expected from her but it wasn’t dark. I think The Walls Around Us hit with enough punch and eeriness to keep me hooked. This one didn’t have the oomph I wasn’t looking for. But did I mention her writing?
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews345 followers
September 11, 2018
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Nathalie DeFelice

There’s something so beautiful about the way A Room Away From The Wolves is written. It’s a haunting, riveting, and oh so delightfully mysterious story to get lost in. Believe me, you will get lost in this story. The tension that builds as this story begins to unfold won’t let you put the book down until you’re tearing through the last page.

This story is chaotic and yet not at the same time. You get to experience the story through the eyes of Bina, a young woman who has just been kicked out of the house by her mother, with nothing but a suitcase in tow and a mysterious black eye. Betrayed by the only family member that she had left, Bina decides she will go to New York City. It’s a town she’s dreamed of since she and her mother tried running away from her father. She decides to go to Catherine House, a home for young woman with a very…odd set of rules to abide by. Charmed by the stories that her mother told, she’s sure that this is the place for her. It’s at Catherine House that she meets Monet, a young woman with more secrets than a grave, and many of the strange tenants that live at the house.

Throughout this story, we’re plagued with the feeling that something is amiss. However, neither Bina or the reader will be able to pinpoint exactly what the issue is. Is Catherine House haunted, or is Bina simply going out of her mind? More importantly, it seems that leaving the house might be a little harder than simply walking out the front doors.

This was an amazing story to read, and increasingly infuriating with each page turn. I loved each of the characters, and was left with so many questions about them. I loved Bina’s character. Reader’s will get a chance to delve deep into Bina’s psyche, personality, and the things that really drive her to do the things that she does. You’ll have this innate sense that she’s been hurt, but you’ll work to like her at the same time. Monet’s character will intrigue and frustrate you, because by far, she is seemingly the most unpredictable character in this entire story.

The plot itself is very unpredictable too. There are so many moments that reader will have the sense that we’re in this spooky ghost story, and then take us in a completely different direction—almost like a descent into madness. At least, that’s how it made me feel while I read it. I’d love to know what other readers will sense as they read this story.

The use of colour in this story was beautiful, from Monet’s wigs, to the descriptions that Nova Ren Suma uses to talk about some of the things happening in the book. They make things vivid, like watching a painting being made. Picking a favourite character in this story was hard for me. I wasn’t in love with any of the characters when I started, but I think it was because Nova Ren Suma doesn’t portray these characters as saints. They’re flawed, imperfect, and are showing us a side of people that’s normally hidden away deep in the recesses of our souls. I felt sorry for Bina as I got to see more of the progression of her character, and by the end of the story, I had a deep appreciation of her. I liked Monet a lot, the enigmatic soul that she is and how no one really knew what she was about.

Some of the aspects of this story that I wished the reader got more of were the interactions with some of the other tenants of Catherine House. They’re all wrapped in so much mystery, which is fine, but we see little toward resolving or understanding the situations that these other girls are in. I want to know the circumstances of how they came to be at Catherine House, especially Lacey and Amalji. The story teases and hints at little morsels of their stories, but we don’t get to see a full picture, just scattered fragments here and there. I also wanted more interactions with Monet, but that’s just a personal opinion. I felt that their interactions were very short, but they develop into these obsessions with each other very quickly. Although these are some of the things that I felt I needed more of, I don’t think it detracts from the story. It merely adds to the mysterious and haunted quality that the story has.

This story was a 10/10 for me! However, a warning to those who are easily triggered as there is abuse portrayed in this story, and although it is not graphic, it was definitely impactful.
Profile Image for Vicky Again.
602 reviews811 followers
September 22, 2018
4 stars

I really enjoyed this! It's such a solid read, and there's so much mystery and fictional history behind it, it's very cool.

I'm not exactly sure how to describe the atmosphere of this book (but it has a really distinct atmosphere), so I'd say something like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children crossed with The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Berube. It's sort of spooky, sort of mysterious, and all sorts of odd in between. There's all these mysterious things happening in the home for girls, with the creepy portraits that move to the spirit-summoning rituals to the ghosts showing up.

Suma is such an awesome writer. Really. She's great at her craft, and the way she assembles the novel is with purpose, which I really enjoyed. It was nice reading a well-written book and one that makes sense and was well-plotted, compared to some of the messier novels out there.

You can tell Suma spent a lot of time fine tuning this, and it really shows.

But, I also wasn't super into the main character. She was cool and although I didn't dislike her, I also just didn't care about her either. I was mostly apathetic to her and she was a means for me to finding out more on the story.

I can barely remember her name (it's Bina), and although I really sympathized with her initial struggle (Suma does a good job of putting us in Bina's headspace as she's kicked out of home), I also felt like Bina didn't really portray the emotional turmoil and surprise and shock at paranormal happenings well.

It's like some scenes lacked a certain level of intensity, which I was looking for and wanted from this novel. I wanted to be super invested, but with this, I was reading it to enjoy the craft more so than to be immersed in the story.

I still loved the paranormalish aspect with Catharine, and the home for girls has a lot of secrets you'll discover as you read this book. It's always satisfying to uncover a mystery, and Suma just did a really good job of putting it all together.

Plus, I enjoyed some of the other side characters and how the flashbacks were incorporated. Mona is such an interesting character with a lot of hidden depth, and I enjoyed how Suma built her. And the way the flashbacks/unreliable fuzzy moments were portrayed was something I really thought was incorporated well and smoothly.

A Room Away from the Wolves is a really well-written book. I just wasn't invested too much in it. This was a really good and solid read, but I wasn't completely in love. I also don't think it was a bad book. It just wasn't 100% for me, which is why it isn't rated higher even though the craft and technique warrants a higher rating.

For others, this could definitely have the potential to become a new favorite book, especially if this sounds intriguing to you. So I definitely recommend you check it out if this sounds cool to you!

Thank you so much to Jean Book Nerd and Algonquin YR for sending me an early finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Vicky Who Reads
Profile Image for emma.
152 reviews567 followers
December 23, 2018
4.5 stars.

this is one of the most beautiful stories i've ever read, and it came into my life at just the right time. it's a ghost story set in modern-day new york city, about a girl from the hudson valley who wants nothing more than to forget the life she left behind. it's witchy and vaguely sapphic, with a meandering and somewhat bizarre plot that centers around identity, independence, and recovering from trauma.

this book is about:
- struggling to escape a dysfunctional/abusive family
- getting out of your hometown
- ghosts
- the freedom that comes with having your own living space
- generational, gendered violence
- new york city
- the complicated love between a daughter and a mother who failed to protect her
- figuring out what kind of person you want to be once you've left behind your baggage

like i said, this is a weird one. it's not the kind of book that everyone will enjoy, but it was absolutely perfect for me.

diverse rep: jewish and sapphic main character

cw: parental abuse/neglect, physical assault, suicidal ideation/suicide
Profile Image for Joanne.
1,026 reviews149 followers
October 28, 2018
Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase

Trigger Warning: Seeming suicide attempts.

A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma sounded really exciting! I was expecting an atmospheric ghost story full of creepiness! What I got was a confusing story that left me with so many questions and very few answers.

Eight years ago, Bina and her mum ran away from home to get away from Bina's abusive father. Bina was sure they would be heading to New York and Catherine House, the boarding house she had heard so many stories about from her mother. But things don't quite go as planned. The guy in the car that picked them up when hitchhiking ended up becoming her step-dad, his house her home, and his daughters her tormentors. Eight years later, after lies told by those daughters, Bina's mum kicks her out the house. Just for a month, until things calm down. She can stay with friends from the church they now go to with her step-father - even though they're Jewish. Hurting from not being believed by her mum, Bina decides to go to New York instead, to Catherine House, and seek refuge there. But Catherine House isn't what it seems, with it's residents wanting to leave, and the photo of the house's namesake, in which she appears to move. Drawn to the mysterious and secretive Monet, who just sparks more questions. But Bina's biggest question is, why would anyone want to leave?

I'm going to be completely honest with you: I do not have a clue what happened in this book. We get some answers in regards to what is going on with Bina, but that was always pretty obvious, with all the flashbacks. But otherwise, I have no idea what was going on. There is a legend that Catherine de Barra, the rich lady who owned the house, in order to escape her many suitors who were after her money, jumped off the roof of the building, but her body never landed, just disappeared. Is this true, or is it just legend? No idea. Why does it appear that Catherine can move in her portrait in the parlour? No clue. What is stopping the other girls from leaving Catherine House, and how? I don't know. And what's the black opal ring, that her mother lost but then magically appears to Bina in Catherine House's garden, have to do with anything? I haven't the foggiest, but maybe Catherine could tell us once she wakes up. Why would she wake up, and from what, and what would that mean? God knows. And why do they think Bina is the one who can do it, and that she'll be able to help everyone leave? I'm none the wiser.

I have to admit the book was gripping, because it led to all these questions, and it was just so intriguing! But then I finished the book, and not a single one of those questions was answered. And I was annoyed and angry and all, "What the hell?" I have no idea what I read. No idea whatsoever. And Bina was no help, being a completely unreliable narrator, who had no interest in asking questions of her own, even when portrait Catherine was moving, or when girls were asking for her help to leave, or that they couldn't seem to leave of their own accord anyway. She just kind of shrugged it all off, because she was happy to be away from her step-father, and at the house where her mum had such experiences, and she was pining for a mum she used to be close to who didn't seem to know who she was any more. She just didn't care, didn't think about it, didn't ask questions. I thought that at least once she realised what I had realised, we would finally get some answers, there would be an explanation. Nope. And I really don't understand this book or why it was written. What is the point of a crazy book that makes no sense, and not give any answers? Why? What am I supposed to get from this book? Or was the point to write the most infuriating book ever?

Perhaps I'm not smart enough for this book, and there were other hints that gave you the answers that I didn't see, but from the reviews I've read, I don't think so. Most people tend to have no idea what happened either, even those who enjoyed the book (though how they managed to do that, I don't know). I have never been more confused by a book in my life, or felt more disappointed and let down. Obviously, I do not recommend this book, but others really loved it, so maybe read a few other reviews before deciding whether to read it or not.

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for the proof.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kait.
495 reviews11 followers
October 4, 2018
**Originally posted on The Fandom**

Bina has always hoped that her life would be something bigger, something more. But when she and her mother finally leave her abusive father, her dreams of an unpredictable but free life are squashed when her mother settles down with the next man she meets, prioritizing a stepfather who largely ignores Bina’s existence and two cruel stepsisters over Bina herself, all in the name of security.

Years have gone by since then, but Bina still hasn’t adjusted. The latest in a string of incidents is about to get Bina sent away, and that’s when when she decides to strike out on her own first. She knows exactly where she’ll go: Catherine House, a boarding house where her mother stayed in her youth, before she met Bina’s father. Of course, Bina’s mother always spoke vaguely of Catherine House and when Bina gets there, it’s not at all what she expected.

I didn’t know anything about A Room Away From The Wolves other than the description on the inside flap before I started reading. Perhaps it’s my own fault for expecting a twisty paranormal mystery featuring two young women falling in love (this book is not that, despite the description sounding like that) but I found myself struggling with this novel. It’s hauntingly surreal and Nova Ren Suma’s writing style is quite lovely, but the story lacked a solid plot and the mystery fell flat.

Once Bina gets to Catherine House, things sort of fall apart. There is a mystery there, but it seemed like the author didn’t know what to do with it. Frustration builds as the secrets of the Catherine House become painstakingly obvious to the reader, but Bina remains in complete denial, trying to explain very obvious paranormal dealings as a trick of the light, a daydream, etc. Surely, a couple things could be explained away, but Bina does it so often that she just looks incredibly naive.

Bina builds up a relationship with her upstairs neighbor, Monet, who believes Bina may have the key to leaving Catherine House. The two girls are extremely curious about one another and strike up an unconventional friendship of sorts. Curiosity slowly morphs into obsession, but it was hard to see the “why” behind it. Despite one scene that gave the two a beautiful, cathartic moment together, there wasn’t a whole lot of chemistry, even platonically. I had hoped their story would be a romance, but it never felt like one. In fact, exactly WHAT type of feelings the two have for each other is never that clear.

This also isn’t a novel in which a whole lot happens. This is heavily reflective material that’s character driven with very few important plot beats. I feel like I could describe all the major moments in just a few sentences, because a large chunk of it all is Bina thinking about her past and talking with the other residents of Catherine House.

I read on however, because I was waiting for it: The big twist, the bombshell, the one moment that explained the strange ways of Catherine House and how they connected to Bina’s past or even an ancient history far beyond Bina. The end of the novel falls upon it casually, almost accidentally, with little fanfare. It mostly confirmed what I already suspected, and left several more specific questions unanswered. The ending felt purposefully convoluted, more haphazard than magical.

If you’re a fan of Nova Ren Suma’s other novels, you’ll probably enjoy this one, but it just didn’t work for me.

Thank you to Algonquin Teen for providing me with a copy of this novel.
Profile Image for Roberta R. (Offbeat YA).
389 reviews36 followers
June 12, 2020
Rated 4.5 really.

Excerpt from my review - originally published at Offbeat YA.

Pros: Quiet but mesmerising story that will both tug at your heart and make you wonder. Exquisite prose.
Cons: Full of mysteries that mostly remain unexplained (though this is part of the book's charm). There's at least one detail that doesn't fit the overall scheme.
WARNING! Domestic violence (off-page). Physical bullying. Touches upon suicidal thoughts, underage drinking and drugs.
Will appeal to: Those who appreciate an eerie, bittersweet tale with more questions than answers.

Nova Ren Suma is not only a master at writing magical realism, but also at populating her books with girls you won't forget - imperfect, often openly flawed girls you can't but love and feel like protecting, because they're victims as well. This is the story of one of them.


This is one of those quiet books where not much happens, but what does slowly enthralls you, only to ultimately punch you in the gut. At its center, an ordinary girl who made some ordinary mistakes and paid too high a price, a magical mansion (with a resident ghost) that is both asylum and prison, and a supporting cast of young women full of secrets and quirks. Oh, and New York of course - not in its glamorous incarnation, but at its most intimate. Despite us landing in the middle of a magical realism scene in the very first, chronologically displaced chapter, when we go back at the start of Bina's journey, it's a slow progression of hints and half reveals, filtered by someone who is, for all purposes, an unreliable narrator - and very much in denial. But here's the thing - the truth is slippery here, and the reader, too, ends up pretending not to see (or getting too mesmerised by Suma's story and writing to be able to). There's enough of a contemporary setting and enough interactions out of Catherine's House to prevent not only Bina, but even us, to get the right perspective about what's going on. I chalk it up to the mansion creating its own reality bubble, inside which (and, it turns out, it's a big "inside") the magical and the mundane can coexist, and a truce - if fragile and showing its weak spots if you know how to look - can be maintained. [...]

Whole review here.
Profile Image for Bang Bang Books.
494 reviews219 followers
August 15, 2018
So I loved The Walls All Around us and I was expecting a strange story but this book just didn't get going.

It started off so good. I love Suma's metaphorical writing and the way she allows the reader to fill in the gaps.

I loved the weird relationship between Bina and her mother. I liked most of the supporting characters.

My issue with this book was the pacing. I needed Suma to start telling me what the hell was going on but she just piled and piled on the mystery. I started to stop caring because it was no longer interesting and I just wanted to know what was happening.

I think Suma created a refreshing story about abuse. It was written beautifully and the ending was great but the pacing was just too slow for me.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
1,144 reviews593 followers
December 26, 2018
DNF @ pg 132

Nova Ren Suma has a lovely, densely metaphorical writing style, but her execution in terms of the story and plotting always leaves something to be desired. Her stories thrive on a lot of confusion, and it just doesn't work for me as a reader. Recommended for those who have loved Suma's other works.
Profile Image for Michelle (Pink Polka Dot Books).
518 reviews345 followers
September 8, 2018
I need to think on this one for a while. My rating may change. I just chose 3 because it's in the middle and I'm feeling VERY in the middle and weird about this one. Also, if you know what the heck this was about-- please let me in on it!!
Profile Image for Crini.
352 reviews410 followers
Want to read
January 10, 2018
*cries* because finally a new Nova book *cries some more*
Profile Image for Christy.
1,505 reviews261 followers
September 5, 2018
This book is smarter than I am and I am 200% ok with that.
Profile Image for Simant Verma.
262 reviews88 followers
August 28, 2018

So, A Room Away from the Wolves is like the most confusing book.. ever.. for me. I am still not sure about my feelings. Did I hate it? Did I enjoy this? I seriously don’t have a clear answer to both these questions. For half of the book, I was like “wait, what’s happening? It’s so confusing” and for the other half, I was like “I can’t put it down. I have to know what’s going to happen”.

This was my first read by Nova Ren Suma so I was not sure what to expect from her writing. I am still confused if I understood the book completely. The whole time while reading it, I was asking questions like why it’s happening, what actually happened etc. but still I was hooked on reading it and finished it in just 3 days (which is quite fast for me). I just wanted to finish the book so that I can get all the answers which kept me guessing throughout the stories. I have to confess that Nova Ren Suma's writing is magical. She can keep the reader hooked till the end, doesn’t matter where the story is going or if it is making any sense to you.

=> I loved the overall weird atmosphere that this book created. For the kind of story, this book was portraying it was perfect. The mysterious atmosphere makes you want to keep going. Everything seems kind of relaxing and a backdrop story. While reading you would feel that something is not right but you won’t be able to figure it out 😀
=> I loved Bina’s character. She is troublesome and creates chaos everywhere she goes. She was unreliable but you will get attached to her. I loved how she wanted to re-live the life her mother lived while staying in Catherine house.
=> One unique aspect of the story is that almost every character in the book is female! Can you imagine a book with no male character of importance and no romance? Well, giving the type of story, I would have been more pissed if the romance was included. But not having a romance aspect certainly felt fresh.
=> I loved the complicated mother-daughter relationship. Though her mother loved Bina, she was also trying to adjust in her current family for her survival.
=> Monet’s character was well-done. She was fit to her role exactly. She was always mysterious and remained so till the end. No matter how much Bina tried to get closer to her, she always kept a mysterious distance.
=> As I said earlier, I loved the writing style of the author. I think it was amazing. It kept me hooked till the end and maintained the mystery throughout the book.

=> My biggest problem was that there were a bunch of loose ends left in this book. There were a lot of things which remained unexplained even when the book ended. Not knowing the things was definitely annoying.
=> There were many characters in the book. As in characters, I mean the girls living in Catherine house. I often forget their names and was so confused who was who and living on which floor.
=> The title didn’t make any sense to me, not till now. There are no wolves in the story, not a single one and I am not sure if ‘wolves’ meant something else here. But the cover and the title definitely mislead the reader.

All in all, this book is suitable for a particular group of readers, in my opinion. The writing and atmosphere keep you hooked till the end but having so many unanswered questions definitely confuses you and make you annoyed. This book is definitely hard to put down but the mystical aspect could’ve been done better. If you like ghost stories and unreliable narrator, you may enjoy this book.

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Profile Image for Jennie.
323 reviews72 followers
September 3, 2018
So gorgeous and haunting. Nova Ren Suma is a treasure.
Profile Image for Karley.
32 reviews
November 14, 2018
I really enjoyed this book!! I would highly recommend this book! It had a lot of suspense and great description!
Profile Image for Andria.
351 reviews
August 18, 2018
A thoroughly gorgeous modern gothic that combines so many of the things I love in a book: runaways, an all-girl boarding house (evocative of a boarding school setting), New York City, complicated and fraught mother-daughter relationships, an unsettling atmosphere of steadily growing unease, lush and lovely prose, and oh yes GHOSTS. Sometimes it feels like Nova Ren Suma is writing specifically for me, she hits all the right marks.
Profile Image for Naseem.
Author 2 books117 followers
February 2, 2019
Netgalley provided me with a copy of an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I... really wanted to like A ROOM AWAY FROM THE WOLVES. I kept thinking that the mystery would unravel in a compelling way, that the story would suddenly illuminate itself. Ultimately, though, the fact that I wouldn't be able to tell you what this book is really about—what the plot itself is—made this a two stars, "it was okay" read for me.

There was nothing I actively liked or disliked about this book, and I think that was part of the problem. The writing was fine. The characters were fine. I wasn't necessarily compelled by the conflict at hand. A book that doesn't elicit strong emotions from me is a concern.

The thing I was most intrigued about—and I think this is part of the point—was Catherine House and its history. But the mystery is never clearly solved, and the reveals at the end of the book felt unearned and not fully explained. I'm usually great with authors not holding my hand, but this felt instead like the ending was rushed.

Another thing: I sort of... hated Monet? I guess that's one thing I actively disliked about this book, and she's kind of a big part of it. I thought she was bossy, didn't respect Bina's boundaries at *all*, and I did not understand Bina's fascination/crush on her. It frustrated me that after fighting with cruel stepsisters—who were needlessly cruel without any real reason—she caved under the pressure of a "fascinating" girl. I don't know; Monet felt very... manic pixie dream girl to me. We never learn anything about her, either, which doesn't help flesh out her character.

The biggest problem I had with this book is that I was 90% through it and still didn't really know what the plot was. There was little signposting throughout the book to help the reader understand where we were going. Then the big reveal happened at the very, very end, and it just left me confused and disappointed.

Overall, A ROOM AWAY FROM THE WOLVES is an okay read, one I'd not necessarily recommend to my friends but leaves me in the kind of "eh, shrug" category.
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