First impressions: Alison has the rare condition of synesthesia. She perceives the world differently than most - tasting emotions, seeing letters in certain colors, and seeing visual representations of sound. Because of this affliction (for lack of a better word), the descriptions from Alison's point of view are incredibly beautiful. Though she suffers lots of negative consequences from the overstimulation, I still found myself kind of jealous that I don't see the world the way she does.
Lasting impressions: I was really into this one until the strange new direction the book takes in the last third of the story. I won't call it a twist, because there were so many unsubtle clues that I could see it coming a mile away, but it definitely was a game-changer for Alison. It didn't really work for me, and my overall impression of the book suffered as a result.
Conflicting impressions: I wish that Alison's relationships with her fellow psych ward patients had been developed further. Instead, they get the backseat to the impending drama and so some of the events involving them - roommate changes, some misguided sexual harrassment, and witnessing other breakdowns - seemed misplaced in this story. Either have the story be about the mental ward and give us deeper characterizations for her fellow patients, or don't develop them at all and leave the focus on Dr. Faraday and the Tori mystery.
Overall impressions: I so wanted to love this book. As it turns out, I did like it, but the ending didn't gel for me so I ended up with more mixed feelings than anything. Sigh.
Here's the deal. Alison's a cool girl. She has a deliciously complicated relationship with her parents. There's something freaky going on with her classmate, Tori, that is unraveling her life in such a way that when the story opens she's in a psych ward, uncertain as to whether her memories of killing Tori are correct. The problem is that she remembers disintegrating Tori, which couldn't be possible. So what really happened?
If this had been the entire focus of the book (which I guess in a way, it is, but not in the way I expected), I would have been happy. We do get resolution as to what happened to Tori and the role Alison played in it, but man did that explanation come out of left field.
As I mentioned above, the explanation isn't entirely unexpected given the enormous planet-sized hints R. J. Anderson drops throughout the text. I did find myself hoping, however, that the explanation would turn out to be the opposite of my assumptions - with no luck. This made the ending something of a disappointment for me, and because it was so strikingly different in tone and content from the first two-thirds of the book it plummeted my enjoyment of the story.
Alison's synesthesia is engrossing, and as she starts working with the mysterious researcher Dr. Faraday, we find out more information on how her brain functions. The former psych major in me was completely hooked on the barrage of tests Alison undergoes, and her relationship with Faraday gives her some needed warmth in the midst of the cold and sterile hospital setting.
If you are looking for an unusual paranormal story with a definitely non-formulaic plot, I recommend picking this one up. It's a worthwhile read, particularly for fans of psychology, or anyone looking for a story a little bit "out there."
Rating: 3/5 stars
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