Ultraviolet by R J Anderson

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Ultraviolet by R J Anderson

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Fresh and original multi-genre book taking in mystery thriller, sci-fi and the paranormal. This book isn't completely without flaws, but it's a great read. We love R J Anderson, who refuses to bend to fashion and resolutely does her own thing to rather wonderful effect.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Orchard
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1408312751

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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.

Alison wakes up to find herself sectioned in a secure psychiatric unit for teenagers. Arriving home with blood on your hands and gibbering endless confessions to having killed a girl who's gone missing will do that. But there isn't any proof and Tori is still missing so both the police and Alison's doctors want to get to the bottom of what happened.

The thing is, Alison herself can't explain what happened. One moment, she and Tori were arguing and the next, Tori simply disintegrated. And that can't be true. Can it? Alison has no intention of asking. A synaesthete - someone whose senses are interconnected and can see smells and hear colours - Alison has learned silence and secrecy from her mother who always reacted with fury to any hint of her condition. And so she keeps her mouth firmly shut...

... until synaesthesia researcher Faraday arrives at the unit. Has Alison finally found someone to entrust with the truth?

It's quite difficult to review Ultraviolet without giving it all away. Suffice it to say that Alison's synaesthesia isn't the only unusual thing going on and that this book is going to get filed under the paranormal YA genre so popular at the moment - even though it isn't really paranormal. But this is exactly what I like about Anderson. She writes in popular genres but she doesn't give us the same old template books. Knife came onto the market at a time when fictional faeries were going urban and did a great deal of snogging. But Anderson's book was a much more traditional tale in which the romance had a much more epic - and much less Mills & Boon for teens - feel.

In Ultraviolet, she's tapping into the teens-with-special-powers genre and again, she's slightly subverted it. The book takes in mystery thriller, sci-fi and the paranormal. And it's such a refreshing read. I really did enjoy it. Synaesthesia is a fascinating condition and Anderson describes it extremely well both in terms of the pleasure and pain it brings to Alison's life. The scenes in the psychiatric ward are really well done and we feel the oppressive atmosphere as Alison does - how anti-psychotic drugs can be so dispiriting for those that take them, how it feels when simple questions have diagnostic overtones, the impossibility of coming to terms with one's own violent acts.

I think perhaps the transition between the two sections of the book - mental breakdown to the truth is out there - could have been better: there's a long build-up and a too-sudden shift. And while Alison is portrayed as understandably reserved and lacking in trust, there are times when her secrecy seems more of a plot vehicle than likely behaviour. But these are nit picks, really. I thoroughly enjoyed Ultraviolet and I love the way Anderson writes books using ground very familiar to her readers but manages to make them utterly non-formulaic.

My thanks to the good people at Orchard for sending the book.

Jigsaw by Garry Kilworth also blends a mystery thriller with sci-fi and the supernatural. So does Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge, whilst playing with words in a way any synaesthete would love. I think they might also like The Poison Garden by Sarah Singleton.

Buy Ultraviolet by R J Anderson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ultraviolet by R J Anderson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Ultraviolet by R J Anderson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ultraviolet by R J Anderson at Amazon.com.


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