Don't Turn Around

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Don't Turn Around Book Poster Image
Exciting, nonstop techno-thriller raises big issues.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Don't Turn Around deals fairly realistically with the subject of computer hacking. It certainly doesn't provide step-by-step instructions for online mayhem, but the author takes care to keep the story mostly within the realm of possibility.

Positive messages

The characters find the courage to continue their investigation in the face of mounting physical and emotional threats. The novel emphasizes working together for the common good and standing up to people and organizations that subvert personal freedoms and actively harm the unprotected.

Positive role models & representations

Peter and Noa, the two main characters, engage in semi- and outright illegal computer hacking, but they do so mainly to protect themselves from the shadow forces that are actively seeking to harm them. At first understandably focused on their own predicaments, they come to realize that the injustices extend far and wide, and they work together in the face of great danger to save whomever they can.


Although suspense is high throughout, there's not a lot of physical violence. Peter takes a beating, there's a shootout, and news of the death of a secondary character is relayed second-hand. Some body parts are disposed of in a disturbing, somewhat nauseating fashion.


It's implied that Peter and his former girlfriend were physically intimate. There's a spark of attraction between him and Noa, but neither has the opportunity to act upon it.


Infrequent swearing includes "bastards," "hell," and "screw you." In a couple cases, stronger language is conveyed via acronyms like "FU" and "WTF?"

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Peter, a teenager, drinks a little bit at home. The brother of his girlfriend, Amanda, died of a drug overdose.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Don't Turn Around is a fast-paced techno thriller featuring characters willing to break the law to save themselves and protect others. The novel raises questions about online privacy and medical experimentation. There's some violence: a beating, a shootout, the death of a secondary character that's relayed second-hand, and body parts disposed of in a disturbing fashion. Language includes "bastards," "hell," and "screw you," as well as acronyms like "WTF?" and "FU."

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What's the story?

After years in the foster care system, 16-year-old Noa wakes up on a table with an IV in her arm and no idea how she got a big, fresh scar on her chest. As she tries to learn the truth about what's happened to her, she teams up with Peter Gregory, a high school \"hactivist\" who has received sudden, brutal attention from some very scary corporate security types somehow connected to his neglectful parents. As Noa and Peter team up to protect each other, they uncover evidence of a conspiracy that involves a worldwide epidemic and the disappearance of hundreds of teens.

Is it any good?

DON'T TURN AROUND is an exciting techno-thriller, full of nonstop action from its opening scene. Peter and Noa, are well defined and reasonably realistic characters, despite their phenomenal computing skills. The villains, however, lack complexity, and Peter's parents seem one-dimensional in their awfulness, even though some explanation is given for their bad behavior. Although not advertised as the first book in a series, the novel ends with enough loose ends to suggest that the story will be continued.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how a greater dependence on information technology can lead to a loss of individual privacy. What do you think about computer hacking? Is it always wrong? 

  • What makes Don't Turn Around a thriller rather than just a mystery? 

  • Should parents keep secrets from their children? In what circumstances is it better to hide the truth rather than discuss it openly?

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