Saturday, March 14, 2015

Don't Turn Around (woah-oh-oh! Der Kommissar's in town!)

Woah-oh-OH!  Obscure-ish music reference.  Yes, I listen to 80s music.  My parents are awesome and ensured that I listed to a wide variety of music as a kid.  Road trips were set to Huey Lewis and the News and Queen and Jim Croce.  Good times.

The whole time I was reading Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon, that song kept rumbling around in my brain.  And strangely, it didn't drive me absolutely mad!

Also strangely enough: I quite enjoyed this book.  It requires a huge suspension of disbelief, but it is just plain fun and Gagnon does a bang-up job of pacing.  A lot of thrillers (in general--not just YA, but for all ages) have pacing issues, particularly the ol' sag-in-the-middle.  It's like the plot version of Second Book Syndrome.  Equally pernicious is the "oh no, hurry up!  It's the end!" syndrome.  DTA doesn't really have any of these issues and kept me entertained and engrossed all the way up to the end.


Noa wakes up on a table in a makeshift recovery room, a giant incision in her chest.  She doesn't know how she got there or what's been done to her, but she does know that she has to get out.  Now.  Despite having a scar in her chest and pretty much no clothing, Noa manages to evade guards and hitch a ride out on a very unique conveyance.

Meanwhile, Peter, being bored and left alone in the house, decides to hack his dad's computer.  Just a tiny bit.  Not much.  Despite his pretty-boy rich-boy image, Peter's actually the creator of an online hacker group called /ALLIANCE/ that's a bit like Anonymous, but less ... shall we say, extreme in their methods.  A few ill-advised keystrokes later, and some mysterious men in suits show up, kick in the door, and threaten Peter and his parents.  Now, Peter's parents are serious pieces of work.  Mummy Dear is one of those people who exists to buy clothing, have cosmetic procedures, and generally take up space, and Daddy Dearest is, well, if I swore, I'd call him several things.  He's generally a horrible person.  One would think that Gagnon would fall into the trap of the unlikeable parent, but this is above and beyond, and there's a reason: Peter's brother died, and they loved him more.  I'm not saying that's right or proper, but it's not unrealistic.  They're bitter about his death, and Daddykins even wishes that Peter had died instead of his brother.  Grief makes you crazy, and sometimes it never lets go.

Peter's brother died of a strange new disease that only affects teenagers, and there is no known cure at this time.  It seems to attack the hypothalamus.  Now, Noa's got an incision in her chest (because you know she's involved somehow!) and not her head, so what gives?

Noa and Peter, formerly just acquainted via /ALLIANCE/ have to team up to survive.  Noa's street smarts just aren't enough to elude the seemingly omnipresent eyes of those who cut her up and experimented on her, and Peter's parents kick him out of the house for probing too deeply.

There's a lot of fun techno-thriller hacking going on here, plus some really engaging chase scenes.  The idea that a sixteen-year-old girl and an eighteen-year-old boy could do some of the things that they do is crazy, but this isn't meant to be real life: it's escapism.  And it's fun escapism.  Gagnon is a good writer--she doesn't flail around in crazy metaphors or make the dialogue totally cheesy.  She's also really, really good at keeping the pace moving along at a nice clip without stranding the reader.  I'm impressed.

I'm also intrigued.  I don't want to tell you any more about the story because that would ruin everything.  And we're just getting started.  On to books two and three!


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