Review: Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson

Book: Ultraviolet
Author: R. J. Anderson
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Release date: September 1, 2011
Source: ARC for review from NetGalley

Summary: (from Goodreads) 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 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?

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

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

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Bout of Books Wrap Up

The read-a-thon is just about complete! Thank you to Amanda at On a Book Bender for hosting this fun challenge. I did not make as much progress as I would have liked, but that’s okay. No new books for me I guess.

Here was my planned list:

1) Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (review due 9/12)
2) The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge (library book due back Wednesday) FAIL
I couldn’t finish this before its due date, so I’m picking a new book.
2) Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (although I may have to abandon this one too because Galley Grab is not playing nice with my new Nook)
3) Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren (because why haven’t I read it yet? It’s getting dusty and that is UNACCEPTABLE.)
4) Lover Unbound by J. R. Ward (I’ve started this one and now just need to finish it)
5) To be determined (something spontaneous that I want to read in the moment)

Here’s what I actually read:

1) Lover Unbound by J. R. Ward

This took forever and a day to finish because I just wasn’t feeling it. It didn’t exactly set the tone for the week.

2) Starstruck by Cyn Balog

This was a tour book that arrived mid-week, which I decided to power through this weekend. Very enjoyable!

3) Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren (partial)

I got almost to the midway point today, but I have a lot more reading to do if I want to finish it in time to get the review up on Thursday. GULP.

4) Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (partial)

Here’s the thing about Goliath: my Nook hates it. The beautiful artwork dotted throughout the book causes my Nook to crash out to the home screen, which makes reading it slow going. I read a little on my laptop today, and that’s going to be how I finish it if I want to read it before it releases. At this point, I’m thinking of scratching and just pre-ordering a copy to read when it comes out. I am thoroughly annoyed with my Nook at the moment and it is negatively affecting my enjoyment of this book. Grrr.

So that’s it. Two whole books. That’s basically what I would read anyway, so I’m feeling like a total loser/failure. I also had to drop off the face of the blogging planet this week because I had so much going on, so I didn’t even get to enjoy the Twitter updates or giveaways as much as I had hoped. Woe is me!

I hope all of you fared better than I did. I had a great week trying to get books read, and I did manage to catch up on my reviews. I now have a review completed and scheduled for every book I’ve read, which is a big load off. On to a new week!

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