Author: R. J. Anderson
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint: Carolrhoda Lab
Pub Date: 09/01/2011
Category: YOUNG ADULT Science Fiction
I enjoyed this engaging, sensitive, and thought provoking book immensely. I’ve labeled it science fiction because of the strange event that sets off the story and the events of the last quarter of the book, but before that, the world and Alison’s situation is very realistic, as is the synesthesia that explains her sensory abilities. The story was particularly interesting to me because of its focus on perception, one of my favorite topics.
“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 wakes up in a mental institution. As she pieces her memory back together, she realizes she’s confessed to murdering Tori Beaugrand, the most perfect girl at school. But the case is a mystery. Tori’s body has not been found, and Alison can’t explain what happened. One minute she was fighting with Tori. The next moment Tori disintegrated—into nothing.
But that’s impossible. No one is capable of making someone vanish. Right? Alison must be losing her mind—like her mother always feared she would.
For years Alison has tried to keep her weird sensory abilities a secret. No one ever understood—until a mysterious visiting scientist takes an interest in Alison’s case. Suddenly, Alison discovers that the world is wrong about her—and that she’s capable of far more than anyone else would believe.
Alison, a 17 yr old with a secret, is easy to relate to and totally believable as are her psychologist and the other teens in the mental institution. Initially, the book is Alison’s story of trying to understand her perceptual overloads and get out of the hospital, but Faraday, the violet eyed, velvet voiced visiting scientist’s arrival, gradually introduces a romantic element. The quality of his listening and his belief in her sanity help her to come to terms with her abilities and leads the reader smoothly into the unexpected last quarter.
The ending was satisfying without being unrealistic and offers hope for the future. We can believe that what Alison believes will come to pass and after I closed the book, I enjoyed imagining how it might happen.
As well as being an engaging story, this novel asks us to reevaluate what we think of as mental illness. Do we lump everyone with a slightly different way of seeing things into that category? Do we misinterpret and misjudge people’s actions because we don’t understand what they’re feeling? And do we cease to bother with people as soon as we label them as crazy or bitchy or stupid or anything else we don’t want to deal with. As Faraday says, everyone has a story, and the book shows quite clearly how once we know the truth about a person we can discover that we have attributed all sorts of qualities, even actions to them that are actually false. Our perception is distorted by our opinions. Here is a novel that educates, about a condition called synesthesia and about how our mind alters the way we perceive people and events. This makes it a juicy, memorable read.
I give it 5 stars and recommend it to everyone, especially anyone interested in human perception and anyone who thinks you can’t learn anything from novels.