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

Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

8 thoughts on “Review: Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson

  1. I just read a book whose ending definitely changed the way I felt about the book overall. I'm intrigued by the synesthesia, though. Sounds fascinating.

  2. I'm with you on the ending. It ruined it for me. However, I really enjoyed her time in the institution and her synesthesia descriptions.

  3. I always find it strange when a book switches gears halfway through or toward the end and it feels like you're reading a different book from the one you started. I still really like the premise of this one though, so I might try it if my TBR pile ever goes down. Thanks for such an outstanding review Logan!

  4. Sounds like a fair review – I think if a book is going to switch gears like that, it's almost better if something really BIG happens to cause it – sometime the big hints and the odd about-face cause disappointment.Loved hear your thoughts, and oh my, I love the beginning of the synopsis: "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." I'm a sucker for stuff like that!

  5. ZOMG! How much fun would it have been to play around with psych ward patients. Talk about your missed opportunities. LOL

  6. Dang, I just read a book (Ashes) where the first two thirds were good and then the last third goes in a completely different direction than the rest of the book and it was odd. It was such a shame because it had such a good thing going for the first part and it sounds like this one did as well.

  7. I love reviews like this. They make me so curious. I'm not sure what to think but I appreciate your honesty.

  8. aaaah I fear change! Things coming out of left field, plot swerves in the final third! Nononnononnono. I've also heard some things about the romance that makes it seem kinda creepy. I don't know. Three stars only? I think I'll pass.

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