Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Don't Turn Around

Noa Torson is a genius hacker and has figured out how to have a nice life. She spent years bouncing from foster home to foster home and forced to stay in a government halfway house in between. After setting up fake foster parents and fooling social services, nobody has bothered her and she is free to do as she pleases. Everything is going well until she wakes up on an operating table with no memory of how she got there. Noa escapes, but the organization who operated on her sends a constant stream of thugs to get her back. Peter Gregory is the opposite of Noa: rich, privileged, and enjoys a normal life. He is the founder and head of a hacker community called /ALLIANCE/. When digging into some mysterious files about Project Persephone he found in his father's computer, thugs dressed in black invade his house to rough him up, threaten him, and steal his computer. Shocked and dismayed, Peter reaches out to another hacker, who happens to be Noa, to find out more about Project Persephone. Are the two groups the same? What do they want? What is Project Persephone?

Don't Turn Around is an exciting, fast paced conspiracy thriller. A lot of people have compared this book to Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because of the hacker elements and Noa's similarity to Lisbeth Salander. There are some similarities, but the two works are inherently different because of the age of the characters, the conspiracy aspect in the YA novel, and the overall tone of both books. Don't Turn Around stands on its own. I enjoyed most of the characters. Noa is my favorite character because of her single minded nature and intelligence. Even when she wakes up completely disoriented and scared, but manages to have the presence of mind and strength to evade and escape her captors. Her ability to put aside her emotions and think clearly to solve whatever problem faces her proves to be invaluable and comes from her background. Peter is much more normal and unused to such extreme situations. He comes from a much more comfortable home life, but the death of his brother basically tore apart his family. Creating /ALLIANCE/ allowed him to help people and punish those abusing power. Both characters strive for the same goal despite their differences and the slight romance between them did not overshadow the larger issues in the book.

I had a couple problems with the book. The antagonists are very one dimensional, which makes the main characters seem awesome in comparison. I just felt they needed something extra to make them a little more human. Also, one of my favorite characters is killed and the event only merits a one line mention after the fact. I think it's completely ridiculous to make a great character that the audience would have an attachment to, only to off them in an anticlimactic way that robs any sort of catharsis or real effect.

I enjoyed Don't Turn Around. It's kind of like the Love Actually of YA conspiracy thrillers. Each and every character is woven together quite intricately in unexpected ways. The surgeries, experiments, and black clad thugs are linked to Noa and Peter and basically everyone they know and extends even further than any of them expected. I hope Michelle Gagnon continues that theme into the next 2 installments in this series, which I will definitely read.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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