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I'm immortally interested in cultural/literary deconstructions, feminism, anti-racism, South Korea, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones, food (including but not limited to maple butter, tomatoes, and toast), fairy tales, parentheses, paper airplanes, films and books.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


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?

Right from the get go I was sucked in. I had some trepidations after reading an opening where it described an amazing girl who was beautiful, radiant and loved by all who knew her - unless this was a story about how she ended up as Snow White or even a zombie, I was about to delete this one. Then came the line that I will forever repeat in my heart:

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

I breathed an honest-to-goodness sigh of relief when I saw that.

Once I continued reading, I knew I was in for a delight. The chilling description of the screams in the background, the lack of any kind of furniture other than a bed and the creepy way the woman with the clipboard was talking to Alison - and then the mention of the transfer area: Pine Hills. Yep. No good can happen in a place called Pine Hills. Bonus points though for being set in Canada!

Ontario to be specific (of course I had my guesses once Alison described the unit name which was posted in two languages) is a backdrop and soon becomes a plot point of the story itself. Because colors play such a large role in the plot as well, the richness of Ontario's lakes and hills and trees contrasted with the institutional architecture surrounding it. It took me a second to realize what was so special about her hometown -when I heard the name of the city I knew. And I loved the jab at Canada's Food Guide; I don't know about anyone else but my friends and I like to tear it apart inch by inch.

Alison: best protagonist ever. One: she has trust issues and it shows and she accepts them. She's trying to get over them but obviously at one point, she's going to snap and she knows it and yet she still tries. Two: she loves music (number one category in my book). Three: Unlike most cardboard cut out copies in the paranormal genre so far, when she hates someone, she doesn't do that frustrating passive-aggressive thing everyone else is suffering from. She'll hide it but at some point she confronts it. Gets over it. Moves on. God, she is a better role model than Bella, Nora and Lucy combined, and she's an apparent murderer. Now onto the love interests - er well, the potentials.

Kirk is the best thing since Captain Kirk circa 2009. He's crazy, diagnosed with bipolarity, funny with maybe not utterly creative digs but amusing nonetheless, and the kind of boyish, younger-guy vibe that I'll always fall for. And then he had to go and screw it up. Sigh. Though it's understandable but still sigh. On the bright side however, we have kickass Alison who not only does not get swoony over the fact that he likes her, but she also goes ahead and refer to the episode as traumatic and a sexual assault. Hush, hush's marketing success has thankfully not reached this publisher!

Though I highly approve of Alison's decision not to forgive Kirk until he apologizes and understood he's done something wrong - once again connected to her trust issues - the fact that she would go around and believe in Faraday makes me wince. There's just something about his charm that makes me want to take a shower and much less him and his general unkemptness and one-outfit wardrobe. Then again, his rants make him much more adorable. And the job revelation made him all the more lovable and then the second more important one just made him all the more brilliant in the Doctor Who kind of a sense (for some reason I'm picturing him as younger David Tennant with violet eyes).

I have to say that Alison's gift is interesting. Even more so when I realized that it's a true phenomenon. I couldn't imagine being able to see music or taste words; I envy the fact that is a gift that anyone would doesn't know of it would easily believe it to be fictionalized. I think it's the closest thing that I've read to being true magic. Ultraviolet doesn't even glamorize such an amazing gift; the consequences to it are as harsh and unwanting as those in Holly Black's world of curse-working.

The world building is one of the best I've ever seen. There is faint info-dumping and from there, all that's described is the state of affairs outside the place and complex scientific conversations between non-humans. Yet the world Alison was dumped into felt more real and terrifying than any other I've read so far. The callousness and the severity of its people, the contrast even, made me believe that they were in fact a different race altogether.

Then there came the Final Choice and one that I hoped would not turn out to appeal to readers of Bella, Nora and Lucy. I hoped, I so desperately hoped. And Anderson did not disappoint, thank you very much.

Ultraviolet is a rollercoster of a ride from start to finish. There's this knot in your stomach that never ever gets untied even when Alison starts calming down and the prospect of going home comes ... and goes. It's been a while since I've been so tightly wound up before. I'm so glad I had the chance to read it and I'm quite ashamed I didn't choose to beforehand. I've never taken notes while reading something for review before but Ultraviolet was just so rich and thought-provoking that it was impossible not to.

Oh, and Tori? She sounds - no is - one of the greatest "popular girl" turn-arounds I have ever seen.

All in all=☆☆☆☆☆

*ARC provided by the publishers via NetGalley
**Summary provided by Goodreads.

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