QuicksilverTitle: Quicksilver

Author: R.J. Anderson

Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Publication Date: March 2013
Hardcover: 320 Pages

Back in her hometown, Tori Beaugrand had everything a teenaged girl could want—popularity, money, beauty. But she also had a secret. A secret that could change her life in an instant, or destroy it.

Now she’s left everything from her old life behind, including her real name and Alison, the one friend who truly understood her. She can’t escape who and what she is. But if she wants to have anything like a normal life, she has to blend in and hide her unusual… talents.

Plans change when the enigmatic Sebastian Faraday reappears and gives Tori some bad news: she hasn’t escaped her past. In fact, she’s attracted new interest in the form of an obsessed ex-cop turned investigator for a genetics lab.

She has one last shot at getting her enemies off her trail and winning the security and independence she’s always longed for. But saving herself will take every ounce of Tori’s incredible electronics and engineering skills—and even then, she may need to sacrifice more than she could possibly imagine if she wants to be free.

Stand alone or series: Companion Novel/Book 2 in the Ultraviolet series

How did I get this book: e-ARC from the Publisher

Format (e- or p-): e-ARC via NetGalley

Why did I read this book: I *loved* Ultraviolet, the first book in this series (duology?) and was ecstatic when I heard that there would be a companion novel. As soon as I saw it on NetGalley, I swooped this puppy up.

**WARNING: This review contains slight, but unavoidable, spoilers for Ultraviolet. You do not have to have read Ultraviolet to read Quicksilver, but if you want to be unspoiled for the first book, you should probably start there.**

Review:

Three months ago, perfect, popular seventeen year-old Tori Beaugrand disappeared into thin air. And then, just as inexplicably, Tori returns home, bloodied and beaten, but alive and whole.

Tori’s disappearance is a mystery to the police and her friends, and she claims that she cannot remember anything of her abduction, or the weeks she was gone. More than anything, Tori wants everyone to forget, and to move on with her life as though nothing has happened.

Of course, the truth isn’t so simple. Tori’s disappearance is one that spans time and space, her secret one that no one – save for friend Alison and scientist Sebastian Faraday – can ever know. You see, Tori isn’t like anyone else on Earth. And now she’s being hunted by scientists who want to study her unique DNA, by a rogue cop that can’t give up without knowing Tori’s story, and by one of her own kind who will stop at nothing to continue his grand experiment.

Tori and her parents uproot themselves, changing their names and their appearances, in the hopes that they can stay safe. Now, Tori is Nikki – a brunette with a pixie cut and dark gray-blue eyes, who is homeschooled and works a part-time job at the local supermarket, trying to keep under the radar. All that goes to hell when Sebastian Faraday shows up in Tori/Nikki’s life again, enlisting her help to build a device that could end their trouble once and for all. But to be successful, it will take every ounce of Nikki’s unique skills – but more importantly, it means she will have to place her trust in others.

The companion book to 2011’s Ultraviolet, Quicksilver is a fantastic science fiction novel from R.J. Anderson. Featuring yet another awesome heroine and a surprisingly high-stakes, unflinching plot, Quicksilver, to put it plainly, rocks. In other words: I loved this book.

As I’ve noted before, you don’t necessarily have had to read Ultraviolet to dive into this book, but I strongly suggest you read that novel first in order to have a fuller understanding of the events and key players in Quicksilver. While Ultraviolet was synesthesiac Alison’s book, about her false confession of murder and her institutionalization, Quicksilver tells the story of the girl who Alison supposedly killed – the perfect, beautiful girl who has it all, Tori. Except, Tori doesn’t really have it all; in fact, her life is a carefully constructed façade. Adopted as a small child by her loving parents, Tori has always been a bit different – she’s got unparalleled skill when it comes to assembling, visualizing and modifying technology, and a knack for memorizing numbers and easily solving complex mathematical problems. But more than her mechanical skills, Tori guards a much deeper secret – she’s from a place far, far away, sent to Earth as a baby as a kind of twisted experiment.

Yep, that’s right. Just like Ultraviolet before it, Quicksilver is a psychological thriller but it’s also firmly a science fiction novel, complete with transporter devices, wormholes, and, yes, that eponymous element of quicksilver. And I’m happy to say that both the science fictional elements and technology elements are executed beautifully. Similarly, from a plotting perspective, Quicksilver rocks. Equal parts fugitive thriller and scifi blockbuster, you could say that this novel is kind of a page-turner. That’s not to say that depth is sacrificed for action – quite the contrary. There are betrayals and hidden motives and resonant emotional connections. And the stakes are HIGH, people! The book kicks into high gear and the last quarter of Quicksilver is crazy intense. (In particular, Tori makes a gutsy, terrifying choice in the late chapters of the book and my goodness is it dramatic.)

And then there are the characters. I loved, loved, loved heroine Tori. And now, this COULD be considered a mild spoiler, but I’m divulging anyway because I think it is a vitally important part of (and draw to) the book. That is: main character Tori is an asexual protagonist.

“Milo,” I said, “I’m going to tell you something I’ve only ever told one other person. And when I do, I . . . I hope you’ll understand.” Passionately hoped, in fact. Because if he said any of the things Lara had said to me when I told her, it would be hard to forgive him for it.

“I know,” he said. “You’re gay, right?”

“No,” I said. “I’m not sexually attracted to anyone. At all. Ever.”

Tori’s not celibate (which is a choice); she’s asexual (a type of sexual orientation).1 It’s rare to come across an asexual protagonist in fiction – especially in YA fiction! – but Anderson does a phenomenal job of carefully portraying Tori’s asexuality, without making this Tori’s Sole Defining Characteristic, or worse, portraying her asexuality in a superficial or offhand way. I love the careful distinction that shows Tori is a young woman who feels love, and rage, and loneliness – she’s not sexually attracted to anyone, but she feels and yearns for emotional connection (I should also note that Tori is asexual but not – to my reading – aromantic). And finally, I love that Tori’s asexuality is NOT misunderstood or treated as a part of her unique DNA, or as the result of some childhood trauma, or some other such humbug. I love that author R.J. Anderson directly addresses and refutes this in the book. That is awesome.2

And you know what else is awesome? Tori’s new friend, Milo, is a Korean Canadian, and the book skillfully deals with questions of interracial relationships and pressures, once again without feeling false or superficial. The relationship that unfolds between Tori and Milo is complicated, to say the least, but its one of my favorite YA relationships in a very, very long time. Heck, I’ll just come out and say it – Tori and Milo are one of my favorite pairs of characters…ever.

With its skillful genre-busting, plotting and standout characters, Quicksilver is every bit as wonderful as Ultraviolet. Heck, I think I may even love it more than that first book. Absolutely recommended, and in the running for one of my favorite books of 2013.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From the Prologue:

PROLOGUE: Aliasing
(The distortion that results when a reconstructed signal is different from the original)

On June 7, the year I turned sixteen, I vanished without a trace.

On September 28 of the same year I came back, with a story so bizarre that only my parents would ever believe it and a secret I couldn’t share even with them.

And four weeks later I woke up in my hometown on Saturday morning as Victoria Beaugrand and went to bed that night in another city as completely different person.

That last part wasn’t as bad as you might think. There’s something exciting about reinventing yourself, even if it means leaving all your friends and the only life you’ve ever known behind.

My only fear was that I might not have made myself different enough.

Rating: 8 – Excellent, leaning towards a 9

Buy the Book:

(click on the links to purchase)

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, nook & iBookstore

  1. If you want to read more about asexuality, check out www.asexuality.org.
  2. On that note, R.J. Anderson wrote a great post about Tori’s asexuality HERE. I highly recommend reading it in its entirety!
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8 Responses to Book Review: Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson

  1. YES! I loved this book as well. I don’t think I have ever seen an author have an asexual character in their story. I thought it was great!

    And did you clutch your kindle close to you at THE PART? You know, WHEN SHIT TOTALLY GOT REAL AND TORI DID THAT THING. Like, OMG, I was so shocked. :D

    Seriously, agreed with everything you said about Quicksilver. It was really an excellent read.

  2. Yes. Yes. Yes. A million agreements to this review and especially Tori being asexual. I have nothing to worry about when it comes to being represented in novels because I’m a white, brown-haired woman, but seeing this often-misunderstood facet of me portrayed accurately was such a pleasure. Some of the science-fiction elements threw me off because hard science makes my eyes roll into the back of my head, but this was SUCH a good book. I kind of want to go back and edit my review because the book has grown on me.

    Maybe I should make one of the medical professionals in my life read Quicksilver before my next appointment with him. He thinks childhood trauma has to do with it and always asks what my (nonexistent) boyfriend thinks of this or that. Heteronormative AND unable to wrap his mind around asexuality. Ugh. I wish I could see someone else instead of him.

  3. Brandy says:

    YES! YES! YES! To all of it, but particularly all you said about Tori/Milo. I love both of them individually and as a couple so much.

  4. Linda W says:

    I don’t know how I missed Ultraviolet (though I had it on my wish list). I guess I need to read that!

  5. Bibliotropic says:

    Okay, now I’m even more miffed that I must have missed this when it was on NetGalley. I really enjoyed Ultraviolet, more than I suspected I was going to, but hearing that the sequel has an asexual character? Pure gold with me, because you just don’t see enough ace people in fiction. Celibate people, sure, but it’s very hard to find asexual characters where their preference isn’t portrayed as somehow deviant or lacking or fixable with medication. I like positive portrayals of people who share my sexual preference like that, and I wish I could have gotten my hands on an early copy of this so that I could geek out over it in public.

    Methinks I need to go and buy this as soon as I’m able! Great review!

  6. OK, I think you’ve sold me. I’m adding both books to my TBR list on the strength of this review alone. You guys have rarely steered me wrong!

  7. Kendra says:

    Like you I loved Ultraviolet, but this book really don’t work for me. I found it really implausible that a wealthy, high functioning family would have chosen to go on the run instead of hiring a lawyer and getting a restraining order against an ex cop who was stalking their teenaged daughter. They were so scared of him, but really what was he going to do? Drug her and throw her into his trunk? And with the whole “evil scientist” thing, there are VERY strict rules about how you have to behave while recruiting research subjects. That could have easily been reported to a research ethics review board. Sadly this bothered me too much to really enjoy the rest of the book.

  8. Thea says:

    Thanks for the comments, all!

    I am so glad to hear that others found Tori’s asexuality portrayed in a believable, wonderful, genuine way. I’ve never read a YA novel with an asexual protagonist – and I don’t think I’ve read an asexual protagonist as real and raw as Tori is in this book.

    @Stephanie Sinclair – THAT PART! That part had me flinching and breathless and… GUH. What a way to build up and end the book!

    @Ashleigh Paige – First, I cannot fathom the fact that a medical professional that claims childhood trauma as causation for asexual orientation. Just… WOW. I’m sorry, and appalled and I can’t even begin to fathom the frustration (to say the least!) you must feel. Second, I agree that certain science fiction elements can be over the top ridiculous, but Quicksilver did such a good job of balancing these elements and truly allowed you to suspend disbelief (or at least, it allowed me to do so!).

    @Brandy – Right?! Tori and Milo are such a great pair – I confess to having a huge crush on both of them as individuals, so together it’s awesome overload.

    @Linda W – YES! Please do – it’s a fantastic book. Can’t wait to see what you think.

    @Bibliotropic – If it makes you feel any better, that (1) happens to me all the time with NetGalley and archived copies (DAMN YOU early archive dates); and (2) Quicksilver is the kind of book I’ve read as a review e-ARC and now will purchase at full price. Because, ya know, it’s that good.

    @Lark – Huzzah!!!! I hope you enjoy them both!

    @Kendra – Fair enough and I completely understand your reservations & problems with the book. I was so caught up in Tori’s story that I didn’t even think of these questions but they are good ones and I can totally see how they could throw someone off. I appreciate the honesty and thank you for sharing your POV!

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