Author: R.J. Anderson
Publication Date: 9/1/11 (US, UK 2/11)
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab (US)
Blurb (GR): "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 is a genre-bender, there’s no doubt about it, and I don’t think I’ve been this surprised about the direction a book took in quite some time. What I find particularly intriguing is the fact that all of us who’ve read it seem equally stumped as to how to write a review of a book whilst still leaving out half of the plot so as to preserve the experience for other readers--talk about a mighty task. When I originally wrote a placeholder for this review, it basically just said that I wish I could somehow warn off the subset of readers that might not be on board for the plot twist in this one. It would truly be a shame if the ratings for the book go down due to the alienation. Then again, I myself was THAT reader who went apeshit at a genre change in I Am Not A Serial Killer. Let’s just say that the setup for the genre switch in Ultraviolet actually has quite a bit of buildup and since I knew we were in a psych ward and things could get trippy, I was game for whatever this author was going to toss my way.
I’ve already read two YA books set in psychiatric treatment situations this year—Gayle Forman's Sisters in Sanity and Michael Thomas Ford's Suicide Notes. Turns out, I really like the genre so if you know of any more good ones, shoot the recs to me in the comments. At the onset of this novel, Alison Jeffries wakes up in a psych ward after she fought with Tori, a classmate from school of whom Alison has always been a little suspect. Tori is missing and Alison thinks she might’ve killed her but she’s finding it hard to recollect the details from the event because she suffered some sort of mental overload during and directly afterward. She remembers disintegrating Tori, but that can’t be right, can it?
The prose in Ultraviolet is saturated with imagery, and it didn’t bother me too much because there was a reason for it. I don’t want to spoil Alison’s diagnoses but the language and stylistic choices are deliberate and effective at giving readers a glance into what life might be like in Ali’s world. She keeps most of her experiences under tight wraps and that aspect of the book was both fascinating and frustrating. It was fascinating to me to see what it might be like to “fake it”—to completely pretend that the experiences you are having aren’t happening. I can’t pretend to know what it would be like but it must be awful to have no idea if what you are experiencing might be normal. I was happy to see Alison finally open up—it was rough going for a bit there.
I truly loved the first half of the book and frankly, I am surprised at myself that I found the second half to be a little weaker because it is right in my wheelhouse. I think I just got so wrapped up in the self-analysis and the murder mystery that when the book turned heavy on the action, my brain just shut off. I still kept fiendishly turning the pages (well, on my Kindle), but I was rather flabbergasted at what was going on. And I hear there’s a sequel in the works? I am happy/sad about that-- happy because I rather enjoyed this one and it will be interesting to see where Ali (and Tori? And maybe even Sebastian?) goes from here, but sad because I thought this was a standalone.
I recommend this book to those who are ready for a surprise and those who, whether they like tons of description or not, are willing to give it a chance when it actually has a purpose other than indulgence.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy!