The Ultra Violets

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
The Ultra Violets Book Poster Image
Fast-paced girl-power confection made for superhero fans.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Ultra Violets has a sneaky way of teaching kids -- making learning new concepts a fun part of the conversation. Science and math terms, theories, and problems pop up in banter like popular slang and are then explained for the non-scientists. The book does a great job of introducing concepts and theories without overshooting the audience.

Positive Messages

While a tad obsessive about nail polish and "pantsing" bullies, overall the message of friendship and girls relishing their strengths is important and positive. There's some shaky morality -- i.e. "getting back" at bullies -- but the novel does show the issues that can arise when friends take advantage of each other. It also shows how thin the line between hero and mean girl is among kids.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The idea of women scientists, superheroes, and business owners isn't lost among the chatting about cute animals, boys, and nail polish colors. In fact, because the presence of phenomenally gifted women is almost taken for granted, readers look inside a world where the limits on what girls can do are removed. While adult presence is largely nonexistent, older-to-younger-girl mentoring is ever-present and nice to see.

Violence & Scariness

Crotch kicks to mutant humanoid/praying mantis hybrids, "pantsing" of bullies, a very aggressive game of dodge ball, and in one scene, it's assumed a monster would eat a small dog. Most of the violence is cartoony in nature, and danger is evident but vague. But readers are given the slight creeps rather than gory/bloody scenarios.

Language

There are instances where readers are told an adult swears, but the words are dispayed as comic book-style symbols. The lead characters are fond of saying "Oh swell no" -- a clever but too close take on "Oh hell no." There are also instances of name calling ("geek," "nerd," etc.) of those left out of mainstream/popular circles.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySpiritwolf11 June 2, 2015

Amazing

Hi there! I am almost nine and i got this book i'd say about a year ago...? This book is a bit too long, and has very hard to pronounce words. The word... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byVioletv May 27, 2018

girl superhero franchises suck

because there is always a violet

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?

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