Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson
Series: Ultraviolet Book #1
Published: June 2nd, 2011
Publisher: Orchard
303 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Young adult science fiction
Acquired this book: From the library
Warning: May contain spoilers
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"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.

Ultraviolet grabs the reader’s attention immediately by starting off with a confused sixteen-year-old girl waking up in a mental institution, unable to remember how she got there or why she’s there. As Alison slowly remembers not only the incident that put her there, but also flashbacks about her cold mother and less-than-stellar childhood, we get a sense of who Alison is, and it’s hard not to sympathize with her because she seems so broken.

The book starts out as one thing - seemingly a contemporary YA ‘issue’ book dealing with mental illness - and morphs into something completely different and unexpected. I won’t say too much, because I think people who don’t really know the premise of the book will be pleasantly surprised with the twists and turns this book takes as it slowly transitions into a genre-bending tale that incorporates elements of the paranormal, real life issues, and romance.

I really liked Alison. Even though she was hard to relate to, there was something about her that drew me in and fascinated me. She was so terrified - of herself, of hurting others, of her strange abilities - and it made her withdraw into herself. As she lives in the mental institution, it’s not her therapy sessions that help with her personal growth, it’s the other patients. She discovered that not only have people always misjudged her, she’s also misjudged them. She’s been so busy worrying about herself and what’s wrong with her that she didn’t look beyond her own little world long enough to learn about other people. It was interesting watching her growth, especially as she learned that what she thought was wrong with her wasn’t actually a bad thing.

Ultraviolet was a fascinating look at mental illness, and what is mistakenly perceived as mental illness. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’d never heard of Alison’s condition before, and now I’m quite interested in learning more. The descriptions were done in a way that made me able to picture it, and the bits that were explained by both Alison from a sensory perspective, and Faraday from a scientific perspective were very well done.

Speaking of Faraday, the secondary characters were all great. Anderson did a good job of fleshing them out and making them come alive, from the doctors to the patients and everyone else in between. I particularly liked Faraday and what he represented for Alison, and how his presence added to the whole mystery of the book. I also enjoyed the little hints of romance, but appreciated that it never took over the story.

My only issues are small ones. The paranormal/sci-fi part was quite short and while it didn’t feel rushed, I wish there had been more of it. Some of the parts where Alison was in the hospital dragged a bit - not enough for me to lose interest, but once or twice I wished she would just move on and that something new would happen.

Emotional, mind-bending, and captivating, Ultraviolet is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s always fun when a book takes you by surprise and flips around into something completely unexpected, and that’s exactly what Ultraviolet did. I would recommend this one for fans of science fiction and books that defy traditional clear-cut genres. 

Have you read Ultraviolet? What did you think? Have you ever read any books that start out one way and then shock you by turning into something completely different?


  1. Ooooh. "Emotional and mind-bending," hmmm? I don't know that I've heard of this one, but MAN, it sounds like something I'd dig. *wanders off to add it to TBR* Nice review, chica!

  2. I have this book on my shelf, and now I'm wondering what I'm waiting for!

    Great review!

  3. I really liked this one too, but I have the same feeling about the ... twist - it didn't feel like the author fully committed to it, so it seemed to be ruched and more could have been done with it.

    Tanya Patrice

  4. I absolutely ADORED this one. I think it was one of my new favorite books.


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