A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Ultra Violets is an origin story of four regular girls who become superheroes that contains superficial female stereotypes (concern for hair and nails, for example), while at the same time showing women as leaders in science, technology, and business. There's some mean-girl behavior, superhero-type fight scenes with cartoony violence, including crotch kicks to mutant humanoid/praying mantis hybrids, and the "pantsing" of bullies. Parents might notice readers adopting "Oh swell no," a phrase used throughout the book.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
It's the classic superhero story: Unsuspecting normal characters are accidently covered in goop from a science experiment, which alters their DNA forever. The difference is the four characters in THE ULTRA VIOLETS are girls and best friends in a city where the top scientists and business owners are women. And in this city, strange occurrences are par for the course. Iris, Cheri, Scarlet, and Opaline are struggling to come to terms with their new powers and the changing dynamics of their friendship.
Is it any good?
The Ultra Violets are like the Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Test in print -- sugary, high energy, and flirting with stereotypes. Readers may find that 300-plus pages of this episode is a tad too long, with the author filling valuable page space with endless manicure references for one character; multiple shows of brash, tom-boyish behavior from another; obsessive "bouncing curls" references for another, and never-ending moping from the one who is obviously going to turn to the dark side. Boiling the high energy role models down to nail polish, hair, "pantsing" and moping does them a disservice.
Readers will enjoy the fast-paced dialogue throughout, as well as the action toward the end, but may lose interest after struggling through the first chapters. The novel starts slow, and the addition of so many asides and narrator interjections is more frustrating than cool. Author Sophie Bell gets some things right in this girl-power romp by inserting lots of science and math. Lab and business geniuses are mostly women and no one blinks an eye. It's great to see so many female characters driving the tech/science side of the story and Bell does a great job breaking down complex concepts for readers (and some of the main characters). It'll be interesting to see if, in future books, the narrator (Bell) will allow the story to unfold without so much "hip" help.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about superheroes. How do you like seeing girls as superheroes? What other superhero stories have you read or see in the movies or on TV? How is The Ultra Violets different?
The book shows how a marginalized friend can be just as damaging as a perceived enemy. What could all of the title characters have done to prevent the friendship break that happens in The Ultra Violets?
Girls in tech and science are prevalent throughout The Ultra Violets, yet one character is surprised when she realizes people expect her not to be good at math. Why would people think girls and women aren't interested in science, math, and technology?
- Author: Sophie Bell
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Superheroes, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Razorbill
- Publication date: March 5, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 17
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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