Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: Ultraviolet, by R.J. Anderson

"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.
Now, I love me a good dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel, but I have to tell you, it was a little refreshing to read a sci-fi novel that wasn't either of those things. Alison's story is firmly centered in the here and now, and along with the mystery of Tori's (death? disappearance?), we have the very familiar themes of parent/child relationships, people's reaction to fame, the mental health system, and genius seen as disability. All of these themes weave together beautifully, enhancing each other rather than making the story a muddled mess.
The only part I found a bit jarring was at the end, when we get the full explanation of Tori's disappearance, and the book takes what felt like a very different turn. The explanation is not at all inconsistent with what leads up to it, it just developed a different feel, if that makes any sense. By this time, however, I was entirely swept up in the story, and happy to forgive a momentary twinge in order to find out WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON, HERE?? I even waited until the end to do an internet search on a certain phenomenon mentioned, which normally I would want to do as soon as it became a central theme. (You'll know what I mean when you get to it, and yes, it's real).
Recommended for any high school library. Thank-you, Carolrhoda (division of Lerner) for the review copy!

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