Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Week with Carolrhoda Lab Review: Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

Published June 2, 2011.

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? (goodreads.com)

ULTRAVIOLET threw me a bit for a loop because it's not what I was expecting out of Carolrhoda Lab. See, CL puts out mainly very gritty contemporaries. Ilsa Bick's DRAW THE DARK had a hint of something nominally paranormal but it could have rightly been psychological. Here it actually takes that leap and I was insanely surprised by it. I didn't think it was going to go there. And I really didn't mind.

As the reader you're in Alison's head the entire time and really it's not a bad place to be. She's not crazy. She's just SUPER sensitive because of her synesthesia. A synesthete is someone that processes letters and numbers as colors and/or feelings. Those symbols might even have particular moods and noises usually carry with them their own shapes. Yes, this is a real issue. Look it up. I don't know whether to call it a disorder or problem or just a quirk. It really just seems like a different way for a very few people to process information. But it was alive in ULTRAVIOLET. I've read one other book where the MC was a synesthete and it fell completely flat. Here, with Alison, I was able to see what she saw. When she reacted so did I. I could see the shapes the noises around her made and I could feel what she felt at the mention of a name. The writing was exquisite in its ability to do that. Alison's synesthesia was so realistic that it in and of itself was its own character.

In context of the greater plot is was all encompassing. It's because of this issue that Alison believes she disintegrated a girl that she was less than thrilled about. Now reading this, and knowing CL's deal with what they published, I absolutely did NOT see it going where it went. I don't want to go into detail because that would spoil it but it totally swept the rug right out from underneath my feet. But the thing is, it was written so well and, really, so scientifically, that I believed it. Within the story and the imprint itself, I bought it. I still feel it a little odd for CL but if this is what they're gearing towards, the little toe dip in the pool, I'll take it. It was pretty awesome.

Alison as a character is someone you can't help but root for. Here's a chick that's basically nothing more than hypersensitive stuffed in a psych ward against her will because people believe she's crazy and a threat to herself and others. Being in her head you know this isn't the case. Sure, you share her blackouts of past events but given everything you can see her sanity and it's angering because she just can't express that without it being flipped around on her. There are times when I wanted her to just come out with it and tell her doctor what was going on. It would have made things so much better! Someone would have understood and someone did. But that was wrenched away from Alison and I couldn't help but feel wrecked when it happened. Her one lifeline gone and she was convinced she'd never see him again.

While the spin ULTRAVIOLET took isn't necessarily something I'd normally be in to and threw me off totally, it was still a phenomenally written book. When I say you feel everything Alison goes through, you really FEEL it. It just can't be helped. Anderson really has a grasp on synesthesia and was able to write it in such a way that it was both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. My understanding is this is the first in a series so I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment. There are relationships established in this book that I really want to see morph in the next. It'll be interesting to see how those dynamics changed from one to the other. Overall well worth the read and definitely a kick to the teeth at the end! Totally didn't see it coming!

Ban Factor: High - Between the psychology and the older man/younger girl potential relationship, the banners would be twitching.
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