Young adult fiction with soul…
It was the blurb on the back cover that made this book irresistible: “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”. What genius came up with such a taste bud tingling, goose bump rising, sonorously spine shivering piece of copywriting, I don’t know. I don’t care. I only know that it made Ultraviolet sound too delicious to pass up. That it didn’t feature vampires, werewolves, witches or wizards was a bonus.
Alison is sixteen years old. She’s a bit of a loner – aloof. Some would interpret her aloofness as a superiority complex, but nothing could be further from the truth. Since she was eight years old, her mother has held her at arm’s length; an unfathomable terror in her eyes whenever Alison is around. And now, as the fog starts to lift from Alison’s mind, she notices that she doesn’t recognise her surroundings. She’s not in her own bed, not even in her own home. The bare walls, the sparse furnishings, the clinical flavour in her nostrils; she’s in a hospital. Synapses in her brain firing off, zipping around inside her skull; Alison realises with horror that she’s not just in a hospital – but in a psychiatric secure unit. Why? And then it crashes down her: Alison shouting at her nemesis Tori. The fight outside school. The blood on her hands. The screaming and the noise. Tori: disintegrating before her eyes. The pain.
So, the world and his dog think Alison murdered Tori. Heck, even Alison believes it. No one just disintegrates. But Alison has been hiding a terrifying secret; holding it tight to herself since that day, when she was eight and she told her mother she could see stars sparking against each other as well as hear the tinkle of fork meeting knife. And her mother looked at her like she was tainted, alien, something to be afraid of. So, maybe Alison did something to Tori – with her mind… Her time at Pine Hill becomes a staid mixture of dampened senses, befuddled thoughts and an urgent need to unburden her secret. And then Dr Sebastian Faraday, neuropsychologist, arrives. He’s got some cognitive perception tests he’d like to run on Alison. He determines she has a rare condition known as “Synesthesia”… then, the even rarer “Tetrachromacy”. His voice sounds like molten chocolate, his eyes the colour of violets – and he tells her: you’re not crazy. He tells her he believes her story that Tori disintegrated. Just when Alison has uncurled her clenched fists around herself, everything seems to fall apart again. Faraday isn’t what he seems. But then, nor is Tori’s disappearance.
If the upside-down world of mental illness wasn’t disorientating enough; then the extraordinary leap Anderson asks you take will leave your head spinning. With the faultless storytelling of an assured author, Anderson explores little known human conditions as well as the unfeasible and alien. Ultraviolet is mostly beautiful and we gobbled it up in one sitting, unable and unwilling to let the strands of narrative grow colder than a few moments to chew on tasteless food, breathe odourless air and hear only the basics of sound. If the ending is improbable, curt and dizzying – so what? We still enjoyed it, we’re guessing you will too.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012