Review of Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

Posted at Apr 12, 2012 7:23 am in

I’ve been meaning to review Ultraviolet by  for a few months now.   I was impressed by the author’s novels (Knife and Rebel) for middle grade readers and really interested to see how her first YA novel would turn out. I was one of a lucky few that got to beta read the first few chapters of Ultraviolet (originally titled Touching Indigo) and I was immediately hooked by the opening:

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. Her hair flowed like honey and her eyes were blue as music. She grew up bright and beautiful, with deft fingers, a quick mind, and a charm that impressed everyone she met.  Her parents adored her, her teachers praised her, and her schoolmates admired her many talents. Even the oddly shaped birthmark on her upper arm seemed like a sign of some great destiny.
This is not her story.
Unless you count the part where I killed her.

How. Awesome. Is. That.

The story follows Alison, a sixteen year old synaesthete who has been hospitalized in a mental institution after a nervous breakdown.  She is the last person to have seen her classmate, Tori (the girl described in the opening paragraph), before the girl’s disappearance.  Alison is naturally under suspicion for murder, but without a body the police don’t have enough evidence to charge her.  Even Alison doubts her own innocence; her memories of her last encounter with Tori are confused and terrifying and she can’t help wonder if her strange ability to “taste” colors and “see” sounds had something to do with what happened to the missing girl.  In the hospital she meets Sebastian Faraday, a young man studying the phenomenon of synaethesia, and he helps her learn more about her unusual perceptions, and encourages her to trust herself again, even when no one else will.

I couldn’t put this book down; I re-read it before writing this review so it would be clear in my mind, and I was just as intrigued the second time around.  Anderson’s use of language perfectly mirrored her character’s unique perceptions; I could actually relate to Alison’s synaethesia because of the author’s descriptions— and yet she never overdid it.  Too many color and texture similes would have been irritating, but the author managed to find just the right balance. 

I liked the character of Faraday; I don’t usually picture actors when I read but for some reason I couldn’t help envisioning a young Kiefer Sutherland in that role, mostly because of his velvet voice.
Maybe looking a little like this? (apologies if that’s no where near the author’s vision of her character.)
To paraphrase Alison, I would like him to follow me around and narrate the rest of my life too, please. *grin*
The book was an interesting blend of paranormal and sci-fi.  I didn’t really expect the sci-fi bit, to be honest, as it was introduced in the latter third of the novel, but when I re-read it I could see where I had missed the “clues” which the author had left.  I don’t want to be spoilery so I can’t elaborate further about that.
My only criticism is pretty minor and involved one of the side characters, Kirk, a troubled teen with bipolar.  I have to humbly admit that I actually really liked Kirk; I thought his sense of humor was a good contrast to Alison’s brooding. I laughed out loud every time he appeared. Yeah, he was something of a jerk in the end, but I just ended up feeling sorry for him when he tried to come on to Alison.  I loved how Faraday gave Alison a little history about the boy, and so softened her feelings for him, but I don’t know if I agreed with her calling Kirk’s clumsy attempt an “assault.”  It didn’t feel that way to me.
But of course the reader doesn’t have to agree with the character’s perception.

All in all, I loved Ultraviolet and am so excited that a sequel is due out in 2013. (Quicksilver)  

On a side note, I have just started my nine-year old on the Faery Rebels series. It is a little past her reading level, but I think she will enjoy the challenge.  And she is obsessed with faeries and fantasy… so I’m looking forward to giving her Arrow and Swift which I am expecting in my mailbox this week!

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