I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
This book starts off as a weird mystery. Alison wakes up in a psychiatric treatment center with no memory of why she's there. All her life, she has experienced sensations that other people don't, like tasting the color blue, knowing that each letter of the alphabet has a color, and knowing that the name “Victoria” tastes like cough medicine. This has always frightened her mother, so she assumes that her mother has somehow found a way to get her committed. Then she remembers what really happened: she killed Tori Beaugrand.
Ever since they first met, Alison heard Tori's presence as a painful buzzing noise. One day, the two of them fought, and Tori...disintegrated. Now, Alison feels guilty and confused. She wants to make sure she never does anything like that again, but she's not even sure how she did it in the first place.
The overall mystery sucked me in right away. I guessed Alison's condition almost immediately (she's a synesthete), but that didn't explain the strange, indescribable color she sometimes saw, the “birthmark” on Tori's arm that no one else could see, or Tori's disintegration.
The bulk of the book took place at Pine Hills Psychiatric Treatment Centre. Alison was determined to prove that she wasn't crazy, so she could go home and hopefully stay calm and not hurt anyone else. She assumed that she somehow disintegrated Tori after becoming stressed and overstimulated by the noise she heard whenever she was around her.
Unfortunately, Alison had no idea who she could trust or what she had to do to prove that she was stable. Her mother seemed determined to keep her in treatment forever. Some of the other patients didn't seem that bad, but some terrified her. She didn't trust Dr. Minta, and all her efforts to get him to let her out of Pine Hills seemed doomed to failure.
The one person she trusted was Sebastian Faraday, a graduate student in neuropsychology who was studying her as part of his thesis. He was the one who figured out that she had synesthesia, and he seemed to be utterly convinced that she hadn't killed Tori.
The introduction of Faraday was one of the first places where this book went a little wrong for me. Before him, the book was slow, but interesting. Then he appeared, and Alison became a lovestruck teen. He was so nice, so trustworthy, and all the nurses at Pine Hills enjoyed chatting with him. Alison was captivated by his violet eyes (a violet only she could see) and beautiful voice (beautiful in a way only she seemed to experience).
His violet eyes and absolute certainty that Alison hadn't killed Tori worried me. Did he know the truth about what happened to Tori? Was he using Alison? Her increasing attraction to him, and the occasional signs that he felt the same way about her, set off great big alarms in my mind. I think the psychological term for what I was worried about is “transference.” Alison had no one she could trust, no real friends. Her mother had rejected her, and her father let it happen. Her romantic feelings for Faraday weren't surprising, but Faraday choosing to act on them was so incredibly inappropriate. I never got to the point where I felt otherwise, no matter what Faraday or Alison said, no matter what the book's later plot twists revealed.
Alison was pretty messed up. For a variety of reasons, she did her best to mute her emotions. Because she saw Pine Hills as a place she wanted to get away from as fast as possible, she made little-to-no attempt to get to know anyone in more than a surface-level way. I had a hard time liking her, but, at the same time, I didn't dislike her. She only really started to grate on my nerves when she began to fall for Faraday, and not just because it was all a very bad idea. No, part of the problem was that, while I could understand her reasons for not trying to get to know any of the nurses or other patients, those same reasons didn't hold true for Faraday. She was convinced she loved him, and she told him lots of things about herself, but she barely made any sort of effort to learn more about him. On the one hand, I figured this was just another sign that Faraday was using her. On the other hand, it made her seem hugely self-centered.
The explanation for both Tori's disintegration and the not-quite-right impression that Faraday gave me was a little too off the wall. I felt that portion of the book could have used more depth, and had a hard time shaking the feeling that none of it was real. However, the unexpectedness of it certainly did keep me reading right up to the very end.
All in all, this was a pretty interesting book, even if the romantic aspects completely turned me off.
(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)