Ultraviolet Paperback – January 1, 2013
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"Alison, 16, wakes up in a mental hospital, her tangled memories offering glimpses of a struggle and horrible death of a classmate. Readers learn that she believes she caused her classmate to disintegrate, that she has confessed to this, and that the student is now missing. What follows is much more than a harrowing adolescent-in-pysch-hospital 'problem book' than one might expect. For one thing, Alison has synesthesia, a neurological condition in which the stimulation of one sense leads to experience in one or more other senses. For example, the teen can taste lies and see colors nobody else can. She also has an eidetic memory and other enhanced perceptions. Synesthesia is a recognized phenomenon often associated with creativity, and is not itself a mental illness. Alison learns that she is gifted, not insane, from a young man studying her condition who is not who he claims to be. Once his origins are revealed, the story loses some of its pace and originality, and things are tied up a little too neatly at the end, but Ultraviolet is still a first-rate read." --School Library Journal, Journal
"Sixteen-year-old Alison wakes up in a mental institution after seeing a classmate literally disintegrate before her eyes. Is she a misunderstood synesthete, or are her mixed-up senses an indicator of more sinister abilities? Part psychological thriller and part paranormal mystery, Alison's compelling story will draw readers in as it challenges them to question their perceptions of reality." --The Horn Book Guide, Journal
"Once upon a time 'science fiction' was not invariably preceded by 'dystopian,' nor was it just a handy synonym for 'paranormal.' This breath of fresh air reintroduces readers to traditional science fiction, with the bonus of a strong heroine. Alison, 16, has been hospitalized ever since her beautiful, popular classmate, Tori, disappeared. Her claim that she disintegrated Tori landed her in the psychiatric ward and soon gets her transferred to a residential treatment facility for seriously disturbed teen patients. Confused, conflicted, fighting the deadening effects of medication, Alison is desperate to leave the hospital yet fearful of what she might do if freed. These worries are complicated by her long-held secret: She has synesthesia. This sensory cross-wiring causes Alison to experience numbers as colors; she hears stars and tastes lies. She's long obeyed her mother's warning to tell no one. Now a mysterious, attractive young doctor has nosed out her secret. Anderson, a Canadian author of fantasy, is an assured storyteller with a knack for creating memorable characters. The barren, northern Ontario setting―where NASA astronauts once trained for moon landings―slyly accents a twisty plot refreshingly free of YA cliché. In bracing contrast to her passive, vampire-fodder counterparts, Alison steers her own course throughout her multi-layered journey―a thoroughly enjoyable ride." --starred, Kirkus Reviews, Journal
"In a change of pace from her Faery Hunters series, Anderson blends paranormal, science fiction, and scientific elements in an intriguing story about a teenager who is convinced that she's crazy―and a murderer―though reality is even more unpredictable. Sixteen-year-old Alison Jeffries awakens in the psych ward of a hospital, and is soon transferred to a treatment center for 'youth in crisis.' The police, meanwhile, believe Alison knows something about the disappearance of her classmate, Tori. She does. Alison had watched Tori disintegrate before her eyes, and she believes that her barely understood 'powers' are to blame. With the help of Sebastian Faraday, a mysterious neuropsychologist, Alison starts to get answers: she is a synesthete―her senses of smell, taste, sight, and hearing intertwined in surprising ways–as well as a tetrachromat, able to perceive ultraviolet light. Alison's conditions allow the author to give her some enviable abilities and use some creative descriptions (Faraday's voice tastes, to Alison, like '[d]ark chocolate, poured over velvet'). Anderson keeps readers guessing throughout with several twists, including a very unexpected divergence in the last third of the book." --Publishers Weekly, Journal
"When Alison wakes up in a psychiatric ward, she has no clue where she is or how she got there. Bit by bit, her memory of the horrifying event comes back to her. She had confessed to murdering Tori Beaugrand, the most popular girl at school. Tori's body, however, is nowhere to be found, and the only thing Alison remembers is disintegrating Tori into a million tiny pieces. Confined to Pine Hill, Alison continues to hide her eccentric sensory condition―the thing that had ruined her relationship with her mother. But when a visiting neuropsychology graduate student comes to collect data for his thesis, Alison discovers her condition is not at all what she thought. Suddenly she is capable of much more than anyone could imagine. Anderson uses stunning sensory details to bring Alison's condition to life. The reader can understand what it is like to taste numbers and feel syllables through the beautifully written descriptions. Unlike any other paranormal story, Ultraviolet is a multilayered roller-coaster ride that looks at a dysfunctional family and backstabbing friends, as well as the strange world beyond. The author plays around with genre bending as she takes a murder mystery and twists it into a sci-fi thriller that feels a little like A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. High school teens looking for an original, suspenseful read will enjoy this book. It is a great fit for any young adult collection." --VOYA, Journal
'When Alison was very young, her mother was so freaked out by her daughter's synesthesia (experiencing the input of one sense as another) that Alison learned to keep it a secret. Now, at sixteen, she has experienced a psychotic break; her cross-sensory perception has become so intense that she is convinced she made a classmate disintegrate in a burst of anger, and it doesn’t help that the classmate has in fact vanished without a trace. Hospitalized, Alison concentrates her energies on keeping to herself and appearing as normal as possible, until a researcher named Faraday discovers her synesthesia and her ability to see beyond the ordinary visible spectrum and helps her understand her powers. Unfortunately, it turns out that he is not a neuropsychologist at all but a young reporter for a magazine specializing in the paranormal, a fact that has him speedily dispatched from the hospital. However, since he is the only one who believes her story, she seeks him out while home for a weekend, and the story takes a turn into Dr. Who territory as Alison finally gets the answers she needs to explain some longstanding mysteries. Indeed, Dr. Who fans are the perfect audience for this psychological drama with a science-fiction twist, but readers who enjoy exploring non-normative neurological abilities will also find it appealing. Alison is a sympathetic protagonist whose synesthesia is presented as both enviable and uncomfortable, and her mistrust of medical care is as credible as it is wrong-headed. In other words, the realism here is very real indeed, and the plot turn to sci-fi will either delight or distract readers, according to their tastes. Everyone, though will stay on track with her bittersweet romance with Faraday and its promise that true love can break barriers and transcend even intergalactic dimensions." --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Journal
"Alison wakes up in a mental institution with no memory of the past two weeks. The bits of time she pieces together point to a violent episode that caused the death of her classmate Tori. As she slowly remembers what happened, Alison worries that she really is crazy because she can only remember Tori disintegrating into nothing. An undiagnosed synesthete, Alison has always seen numbers as colors, tasted lies, and seen colors no one else can. While Alison is in the hospital, Dr. Faraday, a neuropsychologist studying synesthesia, finally puts a name to and an explanation of how Alison’s brain is wired. This is a unique insight into the life of someone with synesthesia, and the look at life inside a mental hospital is a natural grabber for teens. The story makes a dramatic shift in the final third of the book when the true origins of Faraday and what really happened to Tori are revealed. It is a genre-shifting turn that will leave some disappointed but will surely invigorate others." --Booklist, Journal
About the Author
R. J. Anderson isn't trying to hide that she's female, she just thinks initials look more writerly. According to her mother she started reading at the age of two; all she knows is that she can't remember a single moment of her life when she wasn't obsessed with stories. She grew up reading C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, watching Doctor Who from behind the sofa, and hanging out in her brothers' comic book shop. Now she writes novels about knife-wielding faeries, weird science, and the numinous in the modern world. Quicksilver, her latest novel, also has soldering and pancakes.
- Lexile Measure : 900L
- Grade Level : 7 - 12
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Paperback : 312 pages
- ISBN-10 : 146770914X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1467709149
- Product Dimensions : 5 x 0.8 x 7.5 inches
- Publisher : Carolrhoda Lab ® (January 1, 2013)
- Reading level : 12 - 18 years
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #657,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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If Alison's "abilities" sound familiar to you, well, you've already got one rather large reveal (about 100 pages in) figured out. In the first three quarters of the book, we meet an interesting group of teen residents with various psychological conditions. We experience life in the institution through Alison's fresh, first-person voice (and through her heightened senses), and it's a beautiful voice. There's lovely prose living in these pages.
We also meet young, unconventional Dr. Faraday, a psychologist who takes great interest in Alison's case. He identifies her condition, helps her define her sensory abilities, lets her voice her fears, and insists that she is completely sane. As a confidant to Alison and an enigma to me, Faraday's character is enjoyable.
There's nothing in the majority of this book to indicate it's anything other than a contemporary psychological drama. Fortunately, I had read the back cover, which calls it "traditional science fiction." I read most of the book wondering when the sci-fi element would show up.
And then, show up it did, in spades. And then, far too soon ... the book ended.
To justify the plot, I can only compare this novel to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but the comparison is a compliment. In a way, this novel is genius. That said, if I hadn't read the back cover (or ever watched THE TWILIGHT ZONE), I might have felt tricked. This book certainly has the most jarring plot twist I've ever read, because it doesn't merely twist the plot. It changes the genre and the tone and essentially everything. Since I'd been waiting for something like this to happen, I merely thought, <Ah, okay, there it is> and kept reading.
The problem isn't with the twist; it's with the location of the twist. If I could give half-stars, Ultraviolet might get 3.5, mostly for this reason. All the newly introduced elements of plot and storyworld and character beg for development. I want to care about these elements as much as I cared about the first 200+ pages, while Alison struggled with fellow inmates and her parents and other authority figures and her own scared, confused self. But I can't care as much as I want to, because they're on the page in a glorious reveal and then the pages run out.
However. There is a sequel. Excellent.
The first two-thirds of this book are phenomenal, positively five stars. It's the last third that will, I expect, give most people pause. Without spoiling for anything, the book basically flips from an introspective psychological thriller/mystery to another genre entirely.
Is that okay? Well... I feel like Rebecca Anderson does give her readers fair warning. After all, our synaesthete protagonist Alison believes she disintegrated school rival Tori. Either she's completely insane or there are forces at work that are not of this world. So I don't think the reader can protest that they've been completely hoodwinked.
That said, the first two thirds of the book do such a fine job skating that 'what is reality?' line that it's a pity that the author couldn't keep that going until the end. Her exploration of the way people's subjective experience of the physical world might differ is extremely fascinating.
Sixteen-year-old Alison experiences the world differently from most people: letters and sounds have colors and personalities; words have tastes. When Alison hears bells she sees golden stars. And when she sees the new girl in school, Tori Beaugrand, she hears a buzzing in her head that drives her crazy.
Literally, because the story opens with Alison waking up in the psych ward of a mental hospital. She's been out of it for two weeks, there are gaps in her memory and Tori has gone missing - and Alison was the last person to see her alive. Did Alison kill Tori? Is she insane or did her unusual senses allow her to witness something that is impossible? And in a mental institution, surrounded by troubled kids and skeptical shrinks, who can Tori trust?
Enter Dr. Sebastian Faraday, a scientist studying Alison's condition. Dr. Faraday may be the only one who can help Alison - if she can just avoid screwing things up by falling in love with her therapist.
Overall I liked the book a lot. The prose is very strong (I love the line: "And where the new girl had curves, I had only angles and despair."). The characters are complex and interesting. And though more psychological than action-packed, the plot keeps you turning pages. I am definitely interested in reading more from this author.
Top reviews from other countries
The majority of the book is set in Pine Hills Hospital, where Alison is treated as though she has a mental illness, but although her health is cause for concern, she is not ill. Alison has synesthesia - a real neurological condition where a person may process letters as colours or words as tastes. This was the first time I'd heard of such an ability and I was fascinated by it, although I cannot claim to know how much accuracy this representation holds. And of course, this ability is subtly blended with elements of the paranormal, which is slowly but magnificently uncovered throughout the course of the book.
I predicted the twist of the story because of the paranormal genre (and because of Goodreads - curse you, Goodreads!), but nothing could prepare me for the extent it reached beyond my expectations. The story was highly original and Alison's experiences of the world were so incredibly vivid and well developed that I was fully absorbed.
I did have some minor quibbles which is what prevented the book from being a 5 star read. I had very mixed feelings about the focal relationship within the story, and there was no clear line between what was supernatural and what would be what a synesthyte would actually experience. From my minimal understanding of synesthesia, I know that it is not a mental illness, and it is clarified as such in the book. But for Alison it was debilitating in a way that I think she did require support, which is not what a real person with syneasthesia would experience.
Nevertheless, I was utterly captivated by this book. It has been so long since I have read a book of this size in such a short space of time and I could not put it down. It is unusual, but I find that is where the beauty of Ultraviolet lies.
Warnings: Set in mental facility, topic of mental illness (will be discussed in this review), mentions of self-harm
Diversity note: protagonist with synesthesia
Secondly, most of the book is set in a teenage mental institution, and it really conjures up a great sense of horror and panic. Unlike some literary depictions of asylums, no one was sadistic or neglectful or corrupt, and nothing truly awful happened. The staff care about our sectioned heroine - but the grinding horror of not being allowed home, of taking medication with unpleasant side effects and being constantly monitored was almost more traumatic to read about than a more OTT depiction.
Thirdly - and this was the thing that really made the book special for me - I just didn't know what was going on or what genre of book I'd landed in. Our narrator, Alison, has been sectioned after she had a fight with a school mate, who disappeared into thin air in front of her, causing her to seemingly have some form of nervous breakdown. No one has seen the other girl since. The police believe she has something to do with it, the doctors think she has a serious mental illness. And the great thing is that I didn't know what to believe. It felt equally plausible that Alison was schizophrenic and had imagined the other girl disappearing, that she'd killed her accidentally and was in shock and denial, or that something supernatural has happened. For the majority of the book, I didn't know whether I was reading a crime thriller, a gritty study of mental illness or a paranormal novel. For the full effect, I'd recommend you're very careful around reviews, even if you're usually okay with spoilers.
In the end, everything is explained and wrapped up convincingly - though not too neatly. And in between, there's some great character development, some challenging of perceptions, and a rather sweet romance. Definitely worth a read if you're looking for something a bit different.
The main thing I thought about this book was how imaginitive it was. Not only the idea that runs through the book but the way the author talks about the colours/tastes and so on. I only wish I had the mind to create such a great read. I read this in about two days and thought it kept me gripped throughout the whole story. I wasn't really aware it was a love story as well as a thriller. But that made it all the better.
This book is split into 3 parts. My favoirite part is "Part 2" and my least favourite was "Part 3". I didn't really enjoy part three and found myself wanting it to be over.
I love that the author wrote about an actual condition. Its interesting to learn about something I had never heard of before.
This is definitely one of my favourites books and will probably read it again in the future. 10 out of 10!
Such a good book! I was gripped from the very beginning, and I couldn't put it down! We discover that Tori's strange senses are part of her Synesthesia, a condition where the senses overlap, and it's just so fascinating! I discovered that I have it to a mild degree (for me, numbers, and some letters, have personalities), and I lapped it all up. Was such a clever idea for Anderson to have an actual real life neurological phenomenom in her sci-fi book. It's something that is kind of rare, and so different, most people won't have heard of it, so it just adds to the mystery. And then, when you discover this isn't made up and is actually real, other aspects of the story just feel more real, too.
What did happen to Tori? Alison saw her disintergrate, heard her shriek in pain. Is she really insane? Did her Synesthesia play tricks on her? Or did she actually do something, and if so, what? So she can make sure she doesn't do it again.
I don't think there's much else I can say about the plot without spoiling it. But it's fantastic! There were clues to things along the way, but I never expected the outcome! You come up with your own theories while reading, but I didn't really see this one coming. It's awesome though! And Ultraviolet is so exciting because of it, even though in regards to action, not very much happens for most of the book.I was still gripped, though, I couldn't get enough of this book!
There is a bit of a romance in the book, which is more of a sub-plot, but one that's intrinsically linked to the main plot. It's really quite sweet, but one I found to worry me in the back of my mind. Even though it's possible you might feel a little bit uncomfortable, it's written in a way that's so pure, it really is at the back of your mind, and easily ignored. Fortunately, it is addressed and dealt with, so despite reading with just a niggle, that niggle is satisfied by the end.
And I really don't think I can say much more in this review without telling you everything that happens, because I just want to talk and talk about it! Ultraviolet is just amazing, and so unlike anything else I've read before! I am SO excited to read Quicksilver!
when I finally got to the big twist in this book! I really wasn't expecting it, even though I had
sumwhat picked up on the theme of the big twist. At one point I was going with time travel being the
big reveal and I was close. Then I finally got it, probably a good 5 pages before the penny was supposed
to drop! Bit I was still very suprised. I have to agree with an other reviewer in saying that this was a
little glossed over. The book for the first 14 chapters moved quite slowly and then all of a sudden you're
being told that everything you thought to be true was wrong and it all happened a little too fast for me
which unfortunately meant that I found it a little unbelieveable.
However, Alison was a wonderful character. I don't have her issues but was once a teenage girl with issues
of my own and felt I could relate to her sense of confusion, especially how shel felt she truly had no one
she could turn to or confide in. She was well written and completely believeable and I was able to create this
perfect image of her in my head.
I very much enjoyed all of the charcters from Pine Hill or "Fine Pills" as it is referred to in the book!
I loved how you really thought you had them pegged personality wise as Alison did. Only to find they really
had more dimensions than you'd ever realized. I thought Ms Andersons writing of the institution and the
people in it, including the hospital staff, absoloutley wonderful, which is why I think the book wasn't
quite as wonderful after the story took us out of this setting. I do understand why this happened, but I do
feel the story suffered slightly for it in my eyes.
I really don't want to talk anymore about the plot (although I know I have said very little) as I think
this is one of those books best read when you know so little about it. I bought this book simply because
I have read the fairy series by R J Anderson and the blurb on the back was very cryptic and engaing. Just a
few short sentances had me gasping to read this book. And I am very glad that I did. It is a completeley
different direction for the author to what she has written previously. And I do think she has created a very
unique story here which is rare these days in novelists. However, I still think the twist happened just a little
too suddenly, but that really is the only fault I have.
Overall this is a very enjoyable, interesting and beautiful story, with a bizarre twist at the end. If you like
Sci fi and fantasy novels then you should enjoy this book. I strongly suggest you read the fairy series, currently
3 of the books are available (Knife, Rebel and Arrow) and the 4th (Swift) I believe will be released early next year.