Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson


4/5 on Rachel’s Rating Scale
PG for violence and intense situations
Young adult, science fiction

This book started out innocently enough. And by innocently, I mean it starts with a girl confined in a psych ward after she admits to murdering her classmate. But the book becomes even stranger later on (though not in a psychologically disturbing sense) which is why I say “innocently enough.”

Alison cannot actually remember what happened the night she went crazy, and the body of Tori, the girl who disappeared, has not been found. Told from the unreliable narration of Alison–a girl deeply entrenched in emotional and mental trama–Ultraviolet draws the reader into Alison’s broken relationship with her mother, her friendships with the other patients, and her feelings for a young grad student. The narrative follows Alison as she navigates doctors, medications, the strange shapes and colors that have filled her vision for as long as she can remember, and her slowly returning memory. Once Anderson settles the reader in Alison’s unconventional but increasingly familiar way of life at the psych ward, Anderson chucks out a twist ending that left me reeling and laughing hysterically at the unexpected genre switch for hours. This is partially what makes Anderson so great–her ability to completely change what you thought you were reading into something entirely different.

What I love about RJ Anderson as well is her willingness to delve into situations and characters who are beyond the norm for this kind of young adult novel. Alison’s struggle with mental instability adds a layer of confusion to the narrative, leaving the reader wondering if he or she can fully trust Alison’s relation of events. Rather than the conventional supernatural aura that hangs about many young adult novels, Anderson cultivates a sense of normalcy in abnormal situations. Anderson isn’t afraid to delve into the complex hardships of mental patients, such as schitzophrenia, paranoia, and anorexia, but allowing the patients to remain human.

Don’t read this book if you are looking for complete psychological realism, as Anderson takes a more sci-fi swing toward the end. As with most young adult books, approach it with a grain of salt and take the book for what it is, a fun, amusing read with abnormally intelligent substance for a young adult sci-fi novel.