Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

The basics

Title: Don’t Turn Around


Series: PERSEFoNE #1

- Don't Turn Around (August 2012)
- Don't Look Now (August 2013)

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Goodreads Summary:

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.

Read a full summary of Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon below. If you can’t remember what happened in Don’t Turn Around and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

in short

Noa wakes up in hospital to find that she’s been experimented on. She teams up with Peter, a fellow hacker, to bring down the company who did it to her. The company has been experimenting on teenagers to try to find a cure for a deadly disease called PEMA, which had previously killed Peter’s brother, Jeremy. Peter and Noa go to the warehouse where it all began, and get the FBI to turn up and shut the place down. It’s all covered up, of course, and Zeke, a guy from Noa’s old children’s home, saves Noa from being taken by the bad guys. They want her because she’s the cure for PEMA.

what happened in Don’t Turn Around?

  • Noa wakes up in a warehouse after having seemingly been experimented on. She escapes a bunch of men with guns during an awesome action scene. When she got outside, she called the fire brigade to get them to come out so she could catch a ride on the roof of their truck.
  • Peter tries to hack into AMRF’s website, because it’s his favourite past time. What he didn’t expect was a bunch of men (led by Mr. Mason) to break down his door and take away his computer. Peter sees something in his father’s files about Project Persephone. Peter is the founder of a hacker forum called /ALLIANCE/, by the way. Something that Noa is also a part of. Peter messages a hacker called Rain because Rain is an awesome hacker and Peter needs their help.
  • Since Noa can’t go home to get her stuff, in case the villains are watching her house, she buys a new laptop from a store. She checks her emails, and in a surprising turn of events, there is one from Peter, who she only knows as the guy who runs the /ALLIANCE/ website. She agrees to meet up with and help him in return for $500.
  • Noa goes to a horrible hotel room and starts looking into the Project Persephone thing. She finds nothing on Google, so she goes and looks into the company’s (the one that the men from Peter’s place work for) website. She gets through their firewalls and sees that there are files on test subjects and such. She finds a file on her, and downloads it. Quite randomly, Noa is sent an email from an anonymous source called A6M0 that leads her to a website for shampoo.
  • Peter and his girlfriend, Amanda, have a slight falling out. Peter accidentally-on-purpose insults Amanda over her brother, who was a homeless junkie. Peter goes to the library, and like an idiot he tries to hack into Mason’s company again using one of the public computers. Of course, he is traced, and Mr Mason finds him. Mason takes Peter back to home, where his parents are waiting. They’re very disappointed in him for continuing to try to cause trouble. /ALLIANCE/ gets shut down by Mason, and Peter runs away from home.
  • Noa dreams about her parents and how they died in a car crash. She recalls how she was put into an orphanage and into foster care, before finally creating a fake family to adopt her so she could take care of herself and do a better job than any foster family or social worker would do. She earned her own money by creating security systems for websites, and made a small fortune.
  • Noa gets another email from A6M0, telling her to get out of the building. She runs, and is chased to the university campus, where she is forced to hide in a random guy’s room. She hears the men outside. A6M0 helps her find a way out once the guys have moved away. Noa asks A6M0 why he/she is helping her, but A6M0 doesn’t reveal anything.
  • Peter goes to Amanda’s dorm room and sleeps there for the night. Amanda assures him that the guy she was with is just her friend, but Peter doesn’t really believe her. He and Amanda break up.
  • Noa realises that a lot of the files from the company’s website are named after kids that she knew from when she was in foster care, who had ran away. It seems that the company has been experimenting on them for some reason.
  • Peter posts messages on several hacking forums and gathers members of /ALLIANCE/ together. They all team up to take down Mason’s company’s website.
  • Noa is chased yet again by the men in black. She escapes into a high security high school and the place goes into lockdown. She escapes.
  • Amanda volunteers at a place that offers free healthcare to homeless teenagers. Someone tells her that one of the teens is missing, which ties in with what Noa found out.
  • Noa meets up with Peter again, and Peter tells her about his /ALLIANCE/ gang and how they took down the website in just a few hours. Woop woop. Peter and Noa go and crash with Peter’s brother’s old boyfriend, Cody. Cody is a med student and Peter thinks he might be able to provide some insight on the medical files Noa got her hands on when she hacked the website.
  • Peter’s brother died of PEMA, which is a disease that makes the sick person waste away. There’s currently no cure, and it’s always fatal.
  • Cody tells Noa that AMRF experimented on her, regarding PEMA. Cody finds it strange that they cut into Noa’s chest from the front, because the only reason to do that would be to get to her thymus, which would have already shut off by the time she was sixteen. Cody thinks they gave her a second thymus. They get an X-ray done which confirms Cody’s suspicions. He thinks the second thymus is to fight off diseases like PEMA.
  • Mr Mason goes to speak with Amanda at the place she is volunteering. He wants some files, but Amanda refuses to give them to him. Mrs Latimar comes out and hands him the files, though. Later, Amanda is walking alone and she gets knocked out.
  • Noa figures out that her guardian angel, A6M0, is probably a guy named Zeke because that’s what the Allied forces nicknamed the WWII Japanese fight pilots – A6M0’s.
  • Peter figures out that a company called Pike and Dolan is involved with a lot of stuff, including a shampoo company and medical research. Pike has a kid who died from PEMA, and so he’s been investing money into searching for a cure.
  • “You can’t crash here. That’s how they take you.” Some guy wakes Amanda up and warns her to keep moving. She was placed on the bench where her brother was found dead five years ago, because whoever knocked her out is an ass. The words “TELL PETER HE WAS WARNED” were written over Amanda’s shoulder blades.
  • Noa and Peter go back to the warehouses where Noa woke up at the beginning. They plan on breaking in, and then getting the cops to come in and search the place. Somehow. They hide around the side of the building, and finds a severed human foot on the ground. Noa figures that the bad guys have been feeding bodies to crabs, because those things will eat anything.
  • Peter and Noa run to the car, but a guy called Cole finds them. He thinks he’s gotten lucky because he’s taking them both to see Mason. Noa offers a trade: Peter’s freedom for the cipher, which is a dead bolt on the Project’s files. No one will get into them without the cipher. Mason agrees to let Peter go, but they have to keep Noa. Peter starts to leave but then he races back to the building.
  • The lights all burst in the warehouse. Someone starts throwing flaming bottles, and tells Peter to get to the boat. The guy grabs Noa and starts helping her to the boat. Peter sees that they’re not going to make it, so he takes down Cole. The FBI arrive. Peter tells them about the chopped up teenagers.
  • Zeke, aka A6M0, is the guy who turned up at the warehouse and saved Peter and Noa. He’s very tall, and rather hot. (In my head, anyway). Zeke drives the boat towards the Kickemuit River, wherre there is a nature sanctuary where they can ditch the boat and go by foot. It turns out that Zeke knows Noa from one of the children’s homes they were in together, although Noa doesn’t remember him. Zeke was also experimented on, although not in the same way as Noa. He reveals that there’s a whole network of kids who had been caught by Mr Mason and his cronies. Noa is the cure for PEMA.

how did it end?

Peter wakes up in hospital with his mother sitting next to him. It turns out that the warehouses burnt down, and Peter is said to be the only person to survive the fire. His mother has been told that there were a group of runaways staying in the warehouse and a generator caught fire. Peter tells her about the experiments and Mr Mason, but she doesn’t listen. She tells him that Cody is dead

Amanda visits Peter. She tries to apologise but Peter’s having none of it. Noa sent Peter a laptop, which he uses to log into a private forum. Noa tells Peter to get /ALLIANCE/ up and running again.

Noa, using the name PER5EF0NE, posts on the /ALLIANCE/ forums. She informs them about the experiments, she asks for their help in fighting back against the Project. “Follow me and we can save them. We’ll lead them back into the light.”

This is a full plot summary of what happened in Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!


  • Mathilde says:

    I love it! Thanks, this really helped me on my presentation on the book! 😀

  • tyler says:

    what does PEMA stand for

    • Theodor says:

      After doing a little bit of research I found that PEMA is most likely a disease that Michelle Gagnon made up for the purpose of the book. Seen as I found no actual disease with the same, or similar, name I guess this is the case.

      • Megan says:

        Nope, nope nope I found out there was a disease called PEMA. Search it by ‘pema disease’ and you’ll find it. It has something to do with attacking membranes or something, I don’t know because it’s too complicated for my tiny mind ahahah

  • Maddie says:

    The disease is made up, but it stands for “Pestilitas Macra Adulescens” (page 198 in the book).

  • Deja says:

    At the moment I’m at a very boring part in the book. I need to know when the story picks up and gives key details to support the summary.
    P.S I’m at page 114

  • KYLE JENNER says:


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