Publisher: Orchard Books
Released: June 2nd 2011
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
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? (from Goodreads)
Ultraviolet turned out to be very different to how I thought it’d be. I knew the book was about a girl called Alison with synesthesia, a condition that allows a person to see sounds and taste words, but if I’m honest, I didn’t expect the story to be half as compelling as it was! Right from the very first page I was hooked, and by around page 25, I knew I was going to be reading this book in one sitting (which I did – I was up ‘til 5am reading this one!).
The condition Alison had, synesthesia, was fascinating in itself. The descriptions of the things she saw were so rich and eloquent that I felt almost envious of Alison’s colours and sounds and her ability to actually taste lies. I think R. J. Anderson really paid attention to detail when illustrating Alison’s experiences, and it definitely showed because I was unable to put the book down. However, the downside of Alison’s condition was that she was extra-sensitive to everything, which could send her into what the doctors referred to as a “psychotic episode”, which was the reason she was admitted to Pine Hills in the first place. Alison had been aware she was different since she was six years old, but was too afraid to tell anyone in case they thought she was crazy and took her away. Alison’s worst fears, however, came to life, as her own mother had her put in Pine Hills institute after Alison came home one day with blood on her hands, muttering things that couldn’t possibly be true. Now Alison was stuck in Pine Hills, alone, scared and left wondering how she ended up covered in blood.
I really enjoyed getting to know Alison. She was a great character and the way she perceived things was so intriguing to me. It was so strange to see that Alison’s experiences of everyday objects were completely different to that of the average person – something that I may find trivial or boring, Alison would find completely exhilarating, and I loved reading about her personal responses to the things she saw or heard or tasted. It gave great insight into the way Alison’s mind worked, and we got to see the differences in her thought processes, as well as finding out that Alison actually loved the way her brain interpreted things – the thought of her “colours” being taken away from her was a horrifying one. Alison could also be pretty funny, and was clearly intelligent as she was able to look back at her previous actions in retrospect and realise all the things she had done wrong. I felt so sorry for Alison; she was in a place where she couldn’t help but question her sanity, and she didn’t know when, or if, she would be allowed to leave. At first she tried to avoid talking to other people, but she soon realised that she actually had a lot in common with the patients she so wanted to distance herself from.
The other patients at Pine Hills were also very interesting characters. Kirk, a boy diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was especially so. I didn’t know what to think of him. He could be hilarious at times, and then downright mean at others, and though his apologies seemed sincere, I just couldn’t tell what he was really thinking. I really wanted to find out more about him, but he didn’t play much of a role towards the end of the novel. Another character who intrigued me was Sanjay. Was he really “crazy”? He definitely seemed to be, but then he also seemed to be quite perceptive and lucid. It was a shame we didn’t get to discover more about him either.
One problem I did have was that I didn’t find the romance between Alison and Faraday, a scientist, very convincing. The circumstances just seemed too odd for them to develop a relationship and things happened too quickly for my liking. And while I liked Faraday as a character, I had a hard time seeing him as a love interest for Alison and vice versa. However, this is probably the only thing I had trouble believing as the book generally felt very realistic, especially at the beginning.
This was until, however, the last few chapters of the book, where realism went completely down the drain. There was a huge twist that I didn’t see coming, where everything I thought I knew before was completely tossed out of the window. Things turned quite dramatic and there was a sense of urgency building up that made me want to turn each page even faster than I’d been doing before. And the ending, while resolved, was left open, and I’m really hoping for a sequel so we can see what happens next!
Overall, Ultraviolet was an excellent, unpredictable and very engaging read, and I’d definitely read the next book should the author ever choose to write one. I’d recommend this to anyone interested in unusual conditions, such as synesthesia, or perhaps for anyone who enjoyed the first book in the Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong. Supernatural stuff aside, there’s a similar vibe as both books involve troubled teens being treated for mental illnesses.