Zahida from Musings of a YA Reader is stopping by the blog today with a guest review of Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson. Welcome back, Zahida! (You can read Zahida's guest post from last year's event here.)
After brainstorming a list of possible books to read for today’s guest post, I eventually settled on R.J. Anderson’s Ultraviolet for two main reasons: 1) I’m trying to read more books by Canadian authors and 2) I find that most books dealing with psychological issues tend to focus on schizophrenia or OCD whereas I knew that Ultraviolet dealt with synaesthesia, a neurological phenomenon rather than a mental illness. Furthermore, having only read one review of Ultraviolet, I didn’t know much about its plot and wouldn’t really be able to have my opinion of it be influenced by prior reviews.
"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?"
Overall Thoughts: While I found it easy to get captivated by the story, Ultraviolet was also very different from what I expected. The first two-thirds of the novel was set at a psychiatric institution, allowing the reader to see Alison interact with other patients, attempt to be treated, and learn more about her condition. The last third of the book, however, took a surprising paranormal turn – and resulted in my enjoyment decreasing because it was so far-fetched. I did like though that Ultraviolet was written in such a way that if you wanted to, you could just believe that Alison was making some things up (since throughout the novel you kind of question her sanity).
Best Aspect: With her descriptive writing, I thought Anderson did a terrific job of giving the reader a feel for what having synaesthesia would be like (at least in the first half of the book, before Alison’s synaesthesia becomes more like a superpower). However, since Alison never bothers to let anybody know about her unique way of perceiving things, her synaesthesia goes undiagnosed until she participates in a neuropsychological experiment. Instead, it’s assumed that Alison has schizophrenia. It was therefore also nice to see Anderson address how prior biases about symptom presentation or a lack of information can lead to misdiagnoses.
If I could change one thing … I’d have the characters be more fleshed out. Because the majority of the book is set at a psychiatric institution, most of the secondary characters were kids with psychological problems. Although it was easy to figure out what mental illnesses they were dealing with based on their actions or descriptions, I never truly got a sense of their personality as individuals. This may partly be because Alison distances herself from her fellow patients since she has her own issues to deal with.
Final Verdict: 3.5 hearts
Thanks for having me on your blog, Danya!
Zahida blogs as A Canadian Girl at Musings of a YA Reader. Originally planning to major in genetics, she decided to take the first year psychology course offered at her university as an elective because she figured the subject material would be interesting. After having a terrific professor and not being bored at all in lectures, she decided to pursue a major in psychology instead. She also decided to major in neuroscience to supplement her knowledge about the mind with knowledge about the brain. She is looking forward to (finally) graduating in November 2012 with an Honours BSc.
Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts on Ultraviolet, Zahida!