"Don't Turn Around" reveals little

Dec. 3, 2013, 11:30 a.m. | By Zoe Johnson | 10 years, 6 months ago

First of trilogy takes time to get started

When sixteen-year-old Noa wakes up on an operating table in an abandoned warehouse, she is understandably upset: she has no idea where she is, why she's there or what's going on. Unfortunately for Noa—and for the reader—it takes a long time to get answers.

"Don't Turn Around" is one of three in the PERSEFONE series.  Photo courtesy of Michelle Gagnon.

Noa, an orphaned hacker who has managed to escape the foster care system, is fiercely independent, very intelligent and intensely secretive. (Those who have read "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" will recognize Lisbeth's kindred spirit in Noa). For years, Noa has prided herself on her survival skills, which are largely a result of her lone-wolf tendencies. However, finding herself hunted by unknown people for reasons, she's forced to trust Peter, a rich kid who founded a hacker activist alliance, in their mutual quest for answers.

"Don't Turn Around," by experienced thriller writer Michelle Gagnon, is narrated alternately from the perspectives of Noa and Peter. There's a hint of a romantic subplot between the two, which is awkward and out-of-place. Neither are particularly well-developed characters and the writing isn't terrific. Nevertheless, "Don't Turn Around" is absolutely enthralling. It's suspenseful, exciting and constantly surprising: there's no way of knowing what will happen next and readers will be unable to put the book down until they find out.

"Don't Turn Around" is the first of the PERSEFONE trilogy, which is shaping up to be an excellent series. However, if you begin reading the first book, make sure you have the second one nearby: little is revealed about Noa or the mysterious circumstances under which she awakes.

Though the story is filled with twists and turns, chases and escapes, fires and the occasional explosion, the plot doesn't move forward until page 200 or so. Information is revealed—some of it disturbing—but it's just the tip of the iceberg. "Don't Turn Around" seems to be almost background information for the next two books to follow. However, it's fascinating background information and it's worth the 300 pages of relative ignorance to get to "Don't Look Now," the sequel.

Furthermore, while the trilogy definitely falls into the thriller/mystery/adventure category, it also has a surprisingly relevant social justice message. Noa is a victim of the foster care system and the book discusses at length the need for better support systems for youth—orphaned, abused, abandoned, runaway and otherwise. It's a powerful note of truth in a not particularly realistic series and it makes a strong impact.

Fans of thrillers will appreciate the suspense and convoluted plot of "Don't Turn Around," and even those less inclined towards mystery will find something to enjoy. Just be sure to have the second book nearby—some suspense is just too much to bear.

Tags: comic books don't turn around trilogy

Zoe Johnson. Hey there! I'm Zoe, and my spirit animal is a lioness, which sums up my personality pretty well, actually--though I do try not rip people from limb to limb if I can help it. But hey, we've all got our growth areas, right? I really … More »

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