Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson (NY: Lerner Publishing Group, 2011); reviewed from Kindle e-galley supplied by publisher via netgalley.com.
In one of 16-year-old Alison's first memories, she's begging her mother to keep making the pretty gold stars, for that is what Alison sees when her mother is clanking utensils together in the kitchen. Her mother's horrified response and admonition to never, ever tell anyone what she sees, lets Alison know that there's something wrong with her, something she can't reveal to anyone else. She can see colors for numbers, objects, and noises, and experiences tastes for shapes and names. Lately, she can sense a bitterness when someone is lying to her. Worse, if she herself lies, she becomes violently nauseated. And when she wakes up in a psychiatric ward, she initially encounters some lies, or at least half-truths, about the tough time she's had the past couple of weeks that she's been there. Not that she remembers. But the police thinks she should remember something about a missing girl, Tori Beauregard. Apparently, before her mental breakdown, she confessed to killing Tori. But how could that be? Alison had little if anything to do with the popular kids at school, and Tori was one of the most popular girls in her class.
As Alison's memory slowly returns, she recalls talking to Tori on the afternoon of her disappearance. But all she remembers is that Tori suddenly disintegrated before her very eyes. Which is impossible. So impossible she must've driven herself crazy enough to confess to a murder and land herself in the loony bin. She doesn't want to talk to her shrink about any of this, not Tori, not the extraordinary colors and sounds that fill her world. Then a different psychiatrist, Sebastian Faraday, shows up who gives a name to her condition--synesthesia--and tells her that she's not crazy or a freak, she's a gifted person who can help him.
Ultraviolet is a highly unusual novel--it starts out paranormal but then veers into science fiction and fantasy. Allison's journey is developed skillfully, and her time in the mental hospital is particularly well developed with an interesting cast of characters. Anderson does a wonderful job of describing Allison's sensory condition of seeing, hearing, and even tasting ordinary objects so that it sounds both beautiful and frightening. The same is true for the psychiatric hospital, itself both interesting and terrifying with its group of troubled teens. Allison's relationships with her mother, best friend, fellow inmates, and psychiatrists are realistic and well done. Particularly interesting is the quasiromance between herself and Sebastian. Once the science fiction aspect of the story takes over, there's plenty of action, so this really is a novel with something for everyone! Recommended for ages 14 & up. Intense and sexual situations.
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