I recently read Ultraviolet and its sequel, Quicksilver, by R. J. Anderson; and A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. This was my first time to ever read fictional synesthesia novels.
Ultraviolet is the story of Alison Jeffries, a sixeen-year old synesthete who is thrown into a mental asylum after witnessing someone disintegrate before her eyes. While the genre is science fiction, the paranormal sci-fi element was not properly introduced until about four-fifths of the way through the book. I enjoyed Alison’s perception of the world even though I couldn’t really relate to it—her synesthesia is so extreme and aggrandized that it’s rather ludicrous, at least for me. The only types we shared involved associative color. I don’t project, I don’t have sensory overloads, I don’t have tetrachromacy (at least I think I don’t), I don’t hear stars or taste the wind. I am not convinced that the things Alison experienced were even synesthetically normal. However, this is science-fiction and real-world conditions tend to get exaggerated. Aside from that, I like R.J. Anderson’s writing style: simple, but descriptive, with a synesthetic tweak. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I loved seeing synesthesia in literature, but I felt that there was something missing, or perhaps I didn’t like the way the plot turned near the end. 3.5 out of 5.
Quicksilver takes place a few months after Ultraviolet. It focuses almost entirely on a different character who lacks synesthesia and whose plot is centered around the sci-fi elements introduced in Ultraviolet. Synesthesia was rarely mentioned and was reintroduced at the very end as a plot device. As a result I found myself considerably less interested, though I did manage to finish the book. I grew bored of the sluggish storyline, but the main character was pretty awesome. 3 out of 5.
A Mango-Shaped Space is the story of an average teenage girl living with synesthesia. Compared to Ultraviolet, Mia’s synesthesia was much more believable. I empathized with Mia’s sense of total isolation once she discovered she wasn’t “normal.” I understood her desire to stow away her secret for fear of being ridiculed or labeled as some sort of aberration. However, most of Mia’s friends were one-dimensional, and the storyline sans synesthesia was cookie-cutter. This book was definitely intended for a child to read. Regardless, it was cute and touching and a little sad at the end. 3.5 out of 5.
*Note: I cannot imagine the challenge of creating a synesthetic character with multitudes of types when the author herself does not possess synesthesia. Props to these authors for attempting this feat and pulling it off relatively well. :)