Ultraviolet, Book 1
Author: R. J. Anderson
Chosen by: Blythe Harris of Finding Bliss in Books
Description from Goodreads:
Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.
This is not her story.
Unless you count the part where I killed her.
Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori—the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?
First Sentence: "Once upon a time there was a girl who was special."
Alison suffers from synesthesia, though she doesn't know that's the name for her condition. I say "suffers" not because I think synesthesia is a curse, but because Alison does, her mother having punished her for mentioning what she could see and others could not. Alison has always thought she was crazy, and her mom has always loved Alison less for being an odd child. I love the descriptions of Alison's synesthesia throughout the book. They're beautiful, poetic and almost like sensing another dimension.
The story opens with a bang. Alison wakes up in a hospital, about to be transferred to a mental institution. A classmate of hers, Tori, disappears, last scene fighting with Alison. Next thing anyone knows, Alison shows up ranting that she killed Alison, disintegrated her into a million pieces. Alison is a mess, a danger to herself, thus being sent to the mental hospital. When she first wakes up, she remembers nothing, but the memories soon come flooding back.
This premise is utterly compelling. Mental institutions and insanity are just such wonderful subjects for fiction because the reader never knows precisely where they stand. A first person narration in such a case is never entirely reliable, because, not matter how the MC thinks they are, they might not be. For all I know, Alison actually spends the entire course of the novel whacked out on some powerful anti-psychotics and projects her guilt or delusions onto someone else or her dream self. I find this sort of mindfuck endlessly fascinating.
Pretending Alison is on the level and reliable, the story is an engaging one, filled with creepy subject matter and a matching eerie tone. Anderson sets tone in a way that reminds me a bit of Brenna Yovanoff, though their books are quite different. The murder mystery and the curiosities of the various characters kept me rapt throughout the novel.
However, I do have some concerns with regards to where the plot goes. I'll speak about them very generally to avoid spoilers. Basically, the plot takes a turn at one point, and I really wish the book had continued along in the vein where it began. Anderson might convince me that it was necessary in a later book, but I'm not there with this one.
Perhaps more frustrating is that I feel like too many things come too easily, too simply, and too unevenly. Alison's synesthesia seems to come and go; there will be a paragraph laden with synesthetic description, followed by bunches with none, which seems a bit weird, since she would always feel the world that way. On top of that, her synesthesia helps her with a lot of things that I don't think it would aid and she learns how to do these things with little more difficulty than snapping one's fingers. The romance, too, comes together so simply, without any thought on the part of the heroine, and just generally upsets me all around.
Now, I may not have loved this book as others did, but I definitely enjoyed it and appreciate its uniqueness. Also, though I may not be sure about the direction the book takes, in this sort of series, anything, and I do mean anything could happen, so there's no way that I could stop reading this series until I get to the end, whether it ultimately satisfies or not, though I hope it will. Those looking for mindbending reads will not want to miss Ultraviolet.
Favorite Quote: "I could spend the rest of my life studying you, and there wouldn't be a moment wasted."
The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be Our Happy Hours, a manga by Sahara Mizu and Gong Ji-young!
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