Review: Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

dont turn around

Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

Noa woke up on a table, an IV in her arm.  She had no memory of how she got there.  Years earlier, she had managed to escape from the foster care system by hacking computers and creating a fake family.  She is tough and smart.  That is what saves her when she makes a harrowing escape from the warehouse where she awoke.  But men are following her and nowhere is safe.  The only chance she has is to survive in that shadow world where there is no record of her existence.  But she needs access to cash and a computer to pull it off.  That’s where Peter comes into the story.  A wealthy kid, he watched his brother die from the mysterious disease that kills teens.  When Peter sniffs around his father’s files, he stumbles upon one that has men chasing him as well.  So he needs a great hacker to help him find out more.  That person is Noa.  Now the two of them know just enough to get them killed and the only option they have is to trust each other and keep running.

Gagnon creates a future world here that is just a few years ahead of our own.  From the raging disease that is striking down an entire generation to the mysterious people who are using teens for experiments, this is a world that is darker and wilder than our own.  At the same time, it’s a world that is close enough to ours to make it understandable and almost reality.  Gagnon writes about hacking as a beautiful mental exercise, something that the wild and intelligent teen would do simply as a challenge.

Noa is an amazing heroine.  Though she doesn’t have super powers of any kind, she is frighteningly strong mentally and gutsy as can be.  For those looking for a strong heroine, Noa is a modern and fascinating one who offers complexity and vulnerability too.  Peter is another interesting character with his hacking hobby that is used for good and his disturbingly distant parents.  The two of them together are dynamite.

Thrilling and fast paced, this book will appeal to teens who love computers as well as those looking for a riveting read.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.