Book Review: The Wall by William Sutcliffe

Posted July 5, 2013 by Kara in book review, Kara / 7 Comments

Book Review: The Wall by William SutcliffeThe Wall by William Sutcliffe
Published by Walker on June 4th, 2013
Genres: dystopia, young adult
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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Joshua lives with his mother and step-father in Amarias, an isolated town, where all the houses are brand new. Amarias is surrounded by a high wall, guarded by soldiers, which can only be crossed through a heavily fortified checkpoint. Joshua has been taught that the Wall is the only thing keeping his people safe from a brutal and unforgiving enemy.

One day, Joshua stumbles across a tunnel that leads underneath the Wall. The chance to catch a glimpse of life on the other side of The Wall is too tempting to resist. He's heard plenty of stories about the other side, but nothing has prepared him for what he finds . . .

Set in a tense reality closely mirroring Israel's West bank, this deeply affecting parable of a boy who undertakes a short journey to another world lingers long after completion.

The Wall is an unusual book. Unusual in that is presented as a dystopian, and it is, but it also mirrors the Israeli/Palestian conflict and is loaded with a lot of realism and symbolism that makes it one interesting book. Basically, there are two sides. On the outside of the wall there are people fearful of the side that is trapped behind the wall. The land is called Amarias, and their military monitors checkpoints and continues to treat the people behind the wall in an abusive/controlling way. Joshua finds a secret tunnel under the wall, crawls through, and he finds himself on the other side where he is overwhelmed and shocked by what is going on.

When it comes to novels like these, it’s so important to get the execution right. It’s important to present both sides of the issue and to get down to the bare bones about these issues and what they mean and represent to both sides. Do I think The Wall accomplished this? Sort of. 

It’s impossible to know what Israelis and Palestinians are feeling without living there. And I feel that we did not get a clear picture of the conflict presented in this book.. A lot of ideas and important details were glossed over. The author never particularly stated what either side was fighting for, so it was lacking in world building a bit. Also, I do not believe that both sides of the conflict were presented in an equal way, and I kind of take issue with that. Though I have personal opinions about this whole mess, I’ve tried to remain objective throughout the reading of this novel. In my opinion, this book shows a clear favoring toward the side representing Palestinians and does NOT present the Amarias/Israeli side in any sort of positive way. I wouldn’t say they are portrayed as villains, but they are definitely not portrayed in a favorable manner. It’s hard for me to not get emotionally involved in the books I am reading, and I found myself literally hating the side that was trapping people behind a wall and checkpoints. And after I was finished, I knew something wasn’t right about that and I sat down to think about it. I know books are personal, and I know someone else that reads this will find the book’s presentation perfectly fine, but I just can’t get past that. 

Aside from that though, this book is gorgeously written, and in a voice that is easily relatable. I loved Joshua, his feelings, the way he handled his issues, and I found myself connecting with him on a personal level. I believe that he reacted to a lot of problems in his life the same way I would. And I found myself nodding my head a lot and enjoying his story. Parts of this book were incredibly difficult to read for me. Particularly his relationship with his step-father. 

The rest of the characterization is a little weak, and I’ve covered some of those problems already, but I do think this book was more about plot and themes than characters. Which, to be honest, although worked to a certain degree, I think there would have been more of an emotional impact if there was more focus on the characters and giving them multiple dimensions. In this novel, a character was either good or bad. There was not a whole lot of grey area here. I do think that may have been deliberate, but I wished for more grey.

This book excels at its symbolism and the ideas it presents. I really thought this was a unique idea and I loved a lot about it. The imagery was wonderful, the setting was spectacular, and the book made me feel. To me, that’s always important. It’s not a perfect novel by any means, but it brought something new to dystopians. Realism. Connecting it to our world. I give the author credit for that and doing it fairly well. I probably should have rated this 3 stars and not 4 because of all the flaws I found, but sometimes emotional connection and a wonderful page-turning reading experience is enough for me. And in this case, it worked. This was one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year despite the criticisms I found.

7 responses to “Book Review: The Wall by William Sutcliffe

  1. Amy

    I don’t think this is a book for me. I’m glad that even with your issues with how they portrayed the characters, you were still able to enjoy it. It definitely sounds interesting. Great review hon!!

  2. Wow, a book that kinda mirrors the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? That’s kind of hard to pull off, although I’m really willing to read something like that just to see how it goes. I’m not expecting to get a really clear understanding of it though, because there’s obviously a bias, but it sounds interesting enough. Thanks for the review, Kara!

    Faye @ The Social Potato Reviews

  3. Huh, The Wall sounds really good despite the sort of bias that is there. Like you said, books are personal and it’s good to go in with an understanding that sometimes a book might reflect an author’s opinion. Cuz you know, books are not written in a vacuum. Great review though, I did not really have much interest in The Wall but at this point I am going to add it to my goodreads list.

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