Ultraviolet, by R J Anderson

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Author’s website
Publication date – June 2, 2011

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori — the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?

Thoughts: When your senses get crosswired in your brain, you can go through some pretty weird-sounding stuff. You may taste sounds. Words may have colour. You might feel the texture of a smell. The answers to math equations may well have personalities. It’s called synesthesia, it’s a lot more common than you may think, and it’s what afflicts the main character of Ultraviolet.

Alison wakes up one day to find herself institutionalized after having a psychotic break. Her memory is fragmented, but little by little she pieces things together: shortly before said psychotic break, she got in a fight with a girl at school, who is now missing, and the last thing Alison remembers is seeing that girl disintegrate before her eyes. With the help of Sebastian, a researcher visiting her in the institution, she slowly comes to understand that things are far more complicated than they seem. And considering the circumstances, that says a lot!

One of the subject tags attached to this book is “aliens”, and so I spent more than half of the book thinking that Alison’s synesthesia was a sign of alien heritage and that her doctors knew it and were trying to keep her there to experiment on her, or at least observe her. Imagine my surprise, then, to find that Alison is as human as the rest of us, and that the extraterrestrial aspects of the book were not what I expected. I liked that twist. Sometimes going into a book with certain preconceptions turns out to be a good thing, because when what could be a trite and fairly unoriginal plot turns out to be something else, you appreciate the differences all the more.

Another pleasant twist was the way that personal misconceptions are presented. Alison saw Tori as the typical rich bitch characters who bears a grudge for no real reason. Rather than have this be the case and have the two come to a reconciliation later anyway, Anderson twists things around so that 90% of what Alison saw of Tori’s behaviour was made negative due to her own skewed and stressed interpretations, and Tori was never actually as bad as Alison thought she was. There was layers present in these characters that I have not found to be typical for teen novels of this type, and it was good to have something of a change of pace.

Also worth mentioning is that this appears (at least thus far) to be a one-shot novel. When so many books coming out are pieces of trilogies or even longer series, it’s actually quite nice to be able to pick up a book, read it, and know you’ve got a self-contained story that won’t leave you with a cliffhanger or that won’t involve the investment of even more time or money to find out more details later. There’s something to be said for standalones.

While this wasn’t a perfect novel, it did bring a sense of freshness to a saturated genre, providing good scientific explanations for what could be dismissed as the supernatural, turning a few tried-and-true concepts on their heads, making the setting of the novel something fairly controversial without having the whole thing be steeped in controversy. A good YA novel that’s worth reading. Doubly so if you, like me, are someone who experiences synesthesia and you want to see a character you can relate to in that way!

(Provided for review by the publisher via NetGalley.)

One comment on “Ultraviolet, by R J Anderson

  1. Pingback: Quicksilver, by R J Anderson | Bibliotropic

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