Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #2: Ultraviolet

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #2: UltravioletUltraviolet by R. J. Anderson
Series: Ultraviolet #1
Published by Carolrhoda Lab on September 1, 2011
Genres: Mystery, Science Fiction
Pages: 303
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

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?

Recommended by: Blythe Harris of Finding Bliss in Books

First Sentence: “Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.”

Almost everyone I know loved this book and recommended that I read it super soon, including the wonderful Blythe. Ultraviolet is one of the books that makes you question everything and consider the world in a different light. It will likely surprise you, and it’s rather difficult to review without spoilers. I will try my damndest not to spoil anything, however.

Alison suffers from synesthesia, though she doesn’t know that’s the name for her condition. I say “suffers” not because I think synesthesia is a curse, but because Alison does, her mother having punished her for mentioning what she could see and others could not. Alison has always thought she was crazy, and her mom has always loved Alison less for being an odd child. I love the descriptions of Alison’s synesthesia throughout the book. They’re beautiful, poetic and almost like sensing another dimension.

The story opens with a bang. Alison wakes up in a hospital, about to be transferred to a mental institution. A classmate of hers, Tori, disappears, last scene fighting with Alison. Next thing anyone knows, Alison shows up ranting that she killed Alison, disintegrated her into a million pieces. Alison is a mess, a danger to herself, thus being sent to the mental hospital. When she first wakes up, she remembers nothing, but the memories soon come flooding back.

This premise is utterly compelling. Mental institutions and insanity are just such wonderful subjects for fiction because the reader never knows precisely where they stand. A first person narration in such a case is never entirely reliable, because, not matter how the MC thinks they are, they might not be. For all I know, Alison actually spends the entire course of the novel whacked out on some powerful anti-psychotics and projects her guilt or delusions onto someone else or her dream self. I find this sort of mindfuck endlessly fascinating.

Pretending Alison is on the level and reliable, the story is an engaging one, filled with creepy subject matter and a matching eerie tone. Anderson sets tone in a way that reminds me a bit of Brenna Yovanoff, though their books are quite different. The murder mystery and the curiosities of the various characters kept me rapt throughout the novel.

However, I do have some concerns with regards to where the plot goes. I’ll speak about them very generally to avoid spoilers. Basically, the plot takes a turn at one point, and I really wish the book had continued along in the vein where it began. Anderson might convince me that it was necessary in a later book, but I’m not there with this one.

Perhaps more frustrating is that I feel like too many things come too easily, too simply, and too unevenly. Alison’s synesthesia seems to come and go; there will be a paragraph laden with synesthetic description, followed by bunches with none, which seems a bit weird, since she would always feel the world that way. On top of that, her synesthesia helps her with a lot of things that I don’t think it would aid and she learns how to do these things with little more difficulty than snapping one’s fingers. The romance, too, comes together so simply, without any thought on the part of the heroine, and just generally upsets me all around.

Now, I may not have loved this book as others did, but I definitely enjoyed it and appreciate its uniqueness. Also, though I may not be sure about the direction the book takes, in this sort of series, anything, and I do mean anything could happen, so there’s no way that I could stop reading this series until I get to the end, whether it ultimately satisfies or not, though I hope it will. Those looking for mindbending reads will not want to miss Ultraviolet.

Favorite Quote:

“I could spend the rest of my life studying you, and there wouldn’t be a moment wasted.”

Up Next:

The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be Our Happy Hours, a manga by Sahara Mizu and Gong Ji-young!

Want to tell me what to read? For more details, check this post.

18 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #2: Ultraviolet”

  1. Stephanie says:

    I really need to read this! I LOVE LOVE LOVE R.J. Anderson’s Faery Rebels series–my favorite faery books ever. I probably won’t like this one as much b/c I’m a huge faery fan, and I really love what R.J. did with them, but I like mental hospital/mindfuck stuff too!

  2. Nori says:

    I actually don’t know anything about this book! The premise sounds so good!! But that first sentence is probably one of the cheesiest ones I’ve seen.

  3. Brandy says:

    I like this book more than you do (you do bring up valid points here), but not as much as the Faery Rebel books. And not nearly as much as Quicksilver which you do have to read. If only because it is from Tori’s pov and I LOVED getting her take on Sebastian which aligns more with my own than Alison’s does. And oh her snark. Also she is just all over awesome as a heroine.

    • Christina says:

      I’ve heard Quicksilver is much better, and did not know it was from Tori’s POV. That will be interesting! You make it sounds like something I would love, because snark? I love it so!

  4. Bookworm1858 says:

    I really enjoyed this book and am excited to pick up the sequel soon. I’d never read a book with synesthesia and it was fascinating to learn about.

  5. Renae says:

    I only recently became aware of this book, but considering all the rave reviews it received, I figured I needed to read it. Mental health books are definitely intriguing under any circumstances, just so long as the author has done research and isn’t using the “asylum” concept as an excuse to create drama and conflict without too much work.

    I’m certainly still planning on picking this up, especially once you mentioned there was a plot twist you didn’t like—my interest has been piqued.

    • Christina says:

      Well, I’m not too familiar with asylums outside from literature like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but I think she kept it from being too melodramatic. I don’t think she makes the characters over the top by any means.

      Ha, when you read, you’ll have to tell me how you feel about where the book goes.

  6. Aw, I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this more, Christina. It’s one of my favorite books ever! I do think that both the twist and the writing style are so distinct that they are likely dealbreakers if you aren’t on board with them. I’m glad you gave it a chance, though.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    • Christina says:

      I’m definitely going to be reading the next installment. I very much enjoyed this, but I didn’t get swept up in it. Perhaps Anderson can convince me about the twist, but I was loving it as a contemporary, and, at the moment, rather wish it stayed there. Oh well! I do like the writing, but it could have been more consistent.

  7. Okay, now you HAVE to read Quicksilver. It’s on NG now, in case you are interested. But it is MUCH better as far as plot wise. I thought Ultraviolet was a little predictable, but that is SO not the case with Quicksilver.

  8. i love this book…i can’t wait to read the sequel 🙂

  9. I got annoyed at the plot twist too – just because I think you suspend belief in a different way when you’re reading contemporary to when you’re reading other genres, and my brain found it hard to make the switch as rapidly as Alison did. But I did love the synesthesia descriptions – though I didn’t even notice that the desciptions come and go. I guess if we were “seeing” everything she hears/tastes/touches it might get overwhelming.

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