Ultraviolet is one of those sneaky books that makes you think you're reading one thing and then all the sudden, whoosh, you're off on a different adventure. I think many of us who spend a lot of time in the paranormal genre have come to expect a certain story structure from these types of books, but this one has no problem bending all the rules and leaping out to explore other dimensions. Be careful as reviews start to come in, however, because the less you know about this story, the more you'll enjoy it.
The book starts off with a bang: Alison has been institutionalized in a teen mental facility because she's confessed to killing Tori, a girl from school. The problem is, Ali watched her classmate disintegrate in front of her...and the body has disappeared. Since Ali's also seeing colors and tasting lies, she doesn't know whether she's really going crazy or not. She is isolated from her friends and family, she can't relate to the other kids in the facility, and she's being pressured by the police and her psychiatrist to give up information she knows will hurt her. The only one she can turn to is the handsome Dr. Faraday, who helps her understand her synesthesia, an unusual neurological condition in which she processes certain letters as colors, sees symbols where they don't exist, etc.
The author spends a lot of time carefully easing us into a familiarity with Alison's condition and making us feel for her situation, and for the longest time I wasn't even sure if she was ever going to make it out of the institution since her mother keeps finding excuses to not to see her. It took me a little while to adjust to her condition as well, but once I settled in I really enjoyed seeing the world through Ali's sensations, even though I wasn't sure where the story was going.
And then...just as you're getting comfortable, the author turns everything on its head. Shortly before it happened, many readers may guess what is going on--but the reveal is so simply and beautifully done that my little heart still fluttered. From that point on, the story kicks into high gear as Alison tries to solve the mystery of what happened to her classmate and to prove--and to believe--that she isn't insane at all.
There is a wondrous moment near the end that made me catch my breath that invokes the same sort of feelings I get from lying in a meadow under a giant nightscape of stars and sky--that awesome, bigger-than-life emotion of gazing up into a beauty and mystery that we will never fully understand. It's hard to go into detail here about what made this book so fantastic for me without spoiling it, but as I was reading this scene, I flashed back to the very best work of Madeleine L'Engle and Ray Bradbury. I've often wondered if those two masters of speculative fiction are as beloved by teens today as they were back in the day, because like Ultraviolet, their work trusted their readers enough to peel back their many layers slowly and patiently.
I'm not sure how this book will be viewed by modern mass audiences, but I do believe (and hope) that it's going to be critically very well received. It's intelligently written fiction with ideas that stimulate the imagination and move you with what's unspoken...as well as the infinite possibilities of a future yet to come.
*An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.*