Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson (#1 in the Ultraviolet series) (Orchard Books, 2 June 2011)
Ultraviolet is kind of a weirdo among books. You have absolutely no idea what the hell the book is actually about until quite a long way into the book. And it's really, really cool. It's a cool weirdo of a book. I would suggest not looking too closely at the Goodreads page (especially don't look at the tags) so the book can work its magic on you even better and keep you on your toes.
Here's what I can tell you. Alison is sixteen, and she wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the past few weeks. She's always feared that she might be crazy – she sees shapes in the air no one else can see, and she hears colours and tastes words. But now, she's apparently finally had a real mental breakdown. When she is sent to Pine Hills, a psychiatric facility for youths, she begins to remember. Remember that she killed a girl called Tori Beaugrand. Remember that she disintegrated Tori with only the power of her mind.
If you can't already tell, Alison has synesthesia. At the beginning, she doesn't know there's a name for her condition yet; she's been told to keep it a secret all her life by her mother, who seems to think it's something horrific. I loved the way the book was written from Alison's POV, and everything was described in such a gorgeous way, with beautiful colours splashed across the prose – the grey bubbles of people's sobs, and the orange of Alison's pain, and the fluorescent-pink bleat of someone's laugh. Alison's synesthesia was also used in interesting ways to drive the plot of the book, and I found that just very cool and unusual to read about.
The book definitely grabs you from the beginning. I mean, Alison claims to have disintegrated a girl with her mind. Is that a powerful mystery or what? The suspense is amazing as you try and figure out what the hell is actually going on. Everything feels just a little bit eerie for a while, because when you have no idea what the truth behind this whole thing is, you're naturally going to be a bit tense and on edge. It all unravels in a breathtaking and unexpected way.
I love the journey of self-discovery that Alison embarks upon in this book, learning that her synesthesia has a name and finding out the extent of its power, and realising other things about herself that she'd only had an inkling of before. I love that it's also a journey about learning to open up, to not close herself off to the world, but to let herself be vulnerable and to be sensitive – really sensitive – to everything and everyone around her, and to let herself feel whatever she feels, and to stop feeling guilty or ashamed of those feelings.
The romance is also a little different, and it's woven into the core of the story. It left me just a little breathless at times and achingly sad at others. It's really wonderfully evoked through Alison's synesthesia; Alison's wanting is so palpable that it even makes me feel weak in the knees sometimes.
Well-paced, consistently intriguing and fantastically original, Ultraviolet is a book that deserves to be devoured in one go.