Ultraviolet - R.J. Anderson

When I first heard about Ultraviolet I wasn't sure it was the right book for me. I'm always wary of young adult novels that have anything to do with the mental health field. Rarely is the field presented in a realistic or responsible fashion (see The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer for a particularly bad example) so imagine my surprise when I had zero complaints about the way it was portrayed in this book. R.J. Anderson has clearly done her research regarding therapy, medication and daily life in an institution, which I really appreciated. It made the setting feel more realistic and kept me engaged in the story.

The strongest aspect of Ultraviolet was the characterization. Alison, the narrator, is strong, intelligent and relatable despite having synesthesia, a unique condition which causes her to associate words with tastes and colors. Although she's special, she doesn't come across as a Mary Sue. She has flaws, she makes mistakes and there are consequences to her gift. My favorite character was Tori, Alison's pretty blonde nemesis. I love her blunt personality, which made her distinctive. She isn't always nice, but she's still likable because of her strength and intelligence. She has depth. Alison's love interest is likable, and it's easy to see how she would fall for him, however, the age difference between them was an issue for me.

Although I enjoyed many of the side characters, I wish they had been fleshed out a bit more, particularly with regard to her father and brother. I also wasn't sure of Cherie or Micheline's purpose in the overall story, and the reader is left with a lot of questions about Sanjay (perhaps they'll be addressed in a sequel). The resolution to several character arcs also happened a little too quickly such as Alison's mother's abrupt change in feelings towards Alison, and the progress of the other patients in the mental institutions, which happens off the page and is summed up at the end.

Given my limited experience with science fiction novels, I thought the plot was unique. I was able to predict the twist, which occurs about seventy five percent into the novel, but I wasn't completely sure I was right until it happened, and I didn't guess the details. My only complaint is that some of the science fiction aspects were a little hokey at times, but I still enjoyed the story despite this.

I also really loved Anderson's writing, which is another surprise since I'm usually iffy about poetic prose when used in the first person, but it works here because of Alison's synesthesia. Her condition made it believable that she would think in such a lyrical and metaphoric way. The descriptions are simply beautiful, and they give the reader insight into the way Alison's mind works.

I'm really glad that I read Ultraviolet and I'll definitely be reading the sequel, which is told from Tori's perspective.