Don’t Look Now by Michelle Gagnon – Advance Review

Dont Look Now

Book Jacket:

Noa Torsen is on the run. Having outsmarted the sinister corporation Pike & Dolan, Noa and her friend Zeke now move stealthily across the country, protecting runaways before they become test subjects for P&D’s horrific experiments. Noa knows all too well what that feels like: Whatever they did to her has left her exhausted and scared.

Back in Boston, Peter anxiously follows Noa’s movements from his computer, using his hacker skills to feed her the information she needs to stay alive. But he’s desperate to do something more, especially when he learns what P&D has done to his ex-girlfriend Amanda.

Then, in an explosive confrontation, Noa and her team are trapped in the one place they thought was safe. It will take everything Noa and Peter have to bring down the corporation before it gets them first. And with no one to trust and enemies hiding at every turn, they may be the only people alive who can.

This stunning second book in the critically acclaimed Don’t Turn Around trilogy raises the stakes to their absolute limit and will leave readers begging for the exciting conclusion, Don’t Let Go.

You can read an excerpt here.


I can’t help thinking, this book had a thankless job.

Don’t Look Now had the unenviable task of dealing with the gnarly middle book business of keeping the main pair apart (which can easily become a spinning wheel) and making the Dark Side seem insurmountable (which can easily lead to excessive angsting) – and while this book did manage to avoid sinking into its inherent pitfalls, on a subjective level I just didn’t enjoy reading it anywhere near as much as I did the first book, and it was mostly due to all that inescapable middle book business (which I’ll get into below). So now, having finished Don’t Look Now, I find myself as invested as ever in finding out how this story will end, yet I can’t deny my sense of relief at having gotten this part over with, because the story I really want to read is what’s coming up next, if that makes sense. So I guess I kind of think of this book as a necessary evil.

All in all, I think the main reason this book grated on me was the fact that Noa and Peter were apart for the vast majority of the story – and yes, I can see why it was necessary: it was all part and parcel of Noa and Peter having to realize the enormity of what they’re facing, which leads them both to question what the hell they, a pair of teenagers, think they’re doing, and both end up feeling very scared and alone. All that I really liked – the tension of their situation, the very real danger they’re in, and the fact that they are so very far out of their league and know it, that’s all great – it’s just that the price we have to pay for all that good stuff is putting up with a bunch of I-don’t-give-a-fig secondary characters filling in the Noa and Peter sized holes in our main pair’s lives. And of course all that quickly wanders in tiresome romantic directions – a waltz to the tune of I’m lonely and want someone to hoooolld me –  and all I wanted to do was close my eyes and think of England. Also not helping matters was the extraneous POV hopping that keeps us skipping in and out of those very same secondary character’s heads – oh Amanda, I really don’t care enough about you to…care – and while I could understand the plot mechanics behind it all, that didn’t mean I had to like it. In fact, spending so much page time with, around, and focused on characters I cared not a whit about created a steady drag on the narrative.

Now plot-wise, I’m not going to say anything – it’s a thriller, people! I refuse to spoil! – but I will say that I do think this story ends in a good place, and I think it covers some essential ground, particularly in terms of the cost and reality of the fight. But I also think the character side of things definitely leeches some vitality from the plot, and while I never once wanted to stop reading, I did feel like I was having to muscle through a fair bit of page-time, particularly when it came to the romance-y stuff. Yet, as I said above, I do think this book had a lot of dreaded Middle Book Business to deal with, as Gagnon had to service all the necessary evils (i.e. romantic stalling and dramatic futility – I mean, did you really think Luke would beat Vader in Empire Strikes Back? Of course not), and this book does carry the load and keep all its balls in the air. So in the end, let’s call it a mixed bag – and while I still love Noa and Peter, and can’t WAIT to see them back in action together (which really is the whole point of this book, in a lot of ways), I am still rather glad that this part is over and done with. 

But I am really, really looking forward to seeing how this all plays out in the end…

Byrt Grade: B+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Kirkus Reviews says:

Gagnon’s second in the Don’t Turn Around trilogy inches the tale forward with a few thrills concentrated at the volume’s close, but she spends far too much time examining from every side the various love triangles and quadrangles among its characters. Here’s hoping the finale will be a return to the thrills and surprises of the first installment and not more love among the hackers. Worth it to get fans from here to there; not of much interest as a stand-alone.

Rondo of a Possible World says:

As I was expecting, but hoping wouldn’t happen, romance starts to seep its way into the characters….The romance subplot creeping in every now and again bumped down the rating I was going to give for this book. I hated to do it, but I had too. I just didn’t feel it this time around.