Author: Michelle Gagnon
Genre: YA, thriller/mystery, biopunk, cyberpunk
Publication Date: August 28, 2012 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Edelweiss Review Copy/Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her computer-hacking skills to stay safely anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in an empty warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side.
Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa’s talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation threatens his life. But what Noa and Peter don’t realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who’d stop at nothing to silence her for good.
☆: 3.5/5 – a great ride with hacktivists and happy bacteria!
Review: This one’s interesting – it seems that the YA market is trying to capture the feel of the thrill in books like “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, and you can feel a bit of that thrill here in “Don’t Turn Around”. There’s the same sort of hacktivism, being lost in the government foster system, and conspiracy going on, too. However, if you’re looking for major character arcs and development, this book may not be the one for you. But it’s still a pretty good opening book in what looks like is going to be a fun trilogy.
This book is very plot-driven, so much so that I was a bit disappointed. I wanted a little more character arc exploration, but I suppose there’s another two books for that to happen. Still, we get Noa and Peter’s characters quick and dirty, enough for the action to push us forward to book two. These characters don’t quite feel 3D enough for me, so thus, a lower score. I think had this book had one more draft and the characters sketched out a bit more, I would have been satisfied. But that’s me – I’m extremely picky about things like character development and characters getting their own arcs. And it’s not like there are NO character arcs here whatsoever – we do see Noa transform a bit from the very closed, guarded kid in the system to someone more emotionally open to Peter and, in the end, Zeke. And that was nice to see – I love it when we see strong heroines’ vulnerable sides, and to see them grow is even better. I just think that that character development that she got could have been also given to Peter (but since Zeke was such a tiny character until the end, it’s okay to leave his development until book 2). It felt a bit unbalanced.
I just really, really hope that this doesn’t turn into a love triangle.
Now to the action – as I said before, very plot-driven so there’s lots of action and lots of tension. I literally read this one in ONE sitting – it’s that riveting. I felt very physically tense the whole way through reading it. However, there were still parts of the plot that could have been developed a bit more in this first book – and for me, that mostly centered around the fictitious disease, PEMA. It gets written in, and it’s a pretty big deal, but it feels like the details are given as an afterthought at the end. Again, another draft to weave these details in a bit better might have really helped me emotionally connect more to characters in the book who have lost loved ones to PEMA, or fascinated me more with the disease in general. It felt more sketched out here than anything else, much like the characters, and that let me down.
However, I do think this will be good for younger YA fans that want the same thrilling action of the adult “Millennium” trilogy – but for me, it just didn’t pop off the page as much as I wished it had. I felt like William Richter’s “Dark Eyes” did a better job in the thriller department, even though these two books are very different animals. “Dark Eyes” is for an older YA audience, I feel, when comparing the two.
Still, this is a really fun book, and I will definitely be reading book 2. “Don’t Turn Around” is out from HarperTeen on August 28, 2012, so be sure to check it out then!