Published by HarperCollins on August 28, 2012
Genres: Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult
In Michelle Gagnon’s debut YA thriller, Don’t Turn Around, computer hacker Noa Torson is as smart, tough, and complex as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander.
The first in a trilogy, Don’t Turn Around’s intricate plot and heart-pounding action will leave readers desperate for book two.
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 hacking skills to stay anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in a 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 in no uncertain terms. 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.
Where there’s walking, there’s bound to be running. Ironically enough, it wasn’t too long ago that I read a book mainly focused on walking.
Michelle Gagnon’s first young adult thriller goes straight into the action as soon as the book starts – Noa wakes up to find herself on a table in a warehouse with an IV in her arm and no clue of how she got to that table in the first place. Noa manages to get away from the warehouse and eventually teams up with fellow hacker Peter to find out more about a company called AMRF (who starts threatening Peter’s life randomly for reasons of the unknown and attacks the hacktivist group he founded called ALLIANCE).
Don’t Turn Around is basically about two hackers on the run – not necessarily together – and being chased by or threatened by an armed group of men. Running and being chased isn’t typically my favorite book to read, but walking around and not being chased is much more boring to go through. In this particular case, an exception might have to be made – Gagnon reveals more information about the two hackers as they’re on the run and trying to find out the reasons why they’re being attacked or got swooped up from somewhere and experimented on in an abandoned area.
Noa is also an interesting character and has officially landed in as my favorite characters of 2015 – even though she didn’t have a great childhood, it’s amazingly admirable how she manages to remain a cucumber as everything around her falls apart. Noa actually reminds of that one character (Sarah?) from Tabula Rasa – a fearless female character. What’s different between Noa and Sarah, however, is how Noa admits she’s scared but doesn’t appear to be scared even after she is eventually caught by the bad guys originally going after her and Peter from the beginning of the story.
Similar to the likes of Alex Rider and James Bond, Don’t Turn Around is a slow (though fast-paced) yet sure beginning to a series – Gagnon seems to be setting us up for better things to come in the future of the series, and I’m hoping it won’t fail when the end finally comes.