Thursday, September 13, 2007

Turnabout Reveals the Dark Side of Fountain of Youth

Both Amanda and Becky recommend Margaret Peterson Haddix so highly that I knew I had to check her out. My library had several of her books, so I just picked Turnabout at random. After reading it, I'm beginning to understand why everyone raves about this author.

Turnabout tells the story of Melly and Anny Beth, two teenagers with a big secret. You see, for years they have been "unaging" - or aging backwards over the course of the last 85 years. It began when they were elderly women living in a nursing home. The pair, along with 48 other residents, were talked into signing papers allowing their bodies to be used for scientific purposes. Only their bodies were used before they died. All 50 were moved to a private facility owned by "The Agency" and injected with PT-1, an agent that reverses aging. The participants were all promised an anti-drug (termed "The Cure") that would pause their aging/unaging process at around 30 years old. The only problem is "The Cure," which worked on rats does not exactly work on humans. Every patient who takes it dies. No longer trusting the agency, Melly and Anny Beth reenter life on the outside. Although The Agency tracks the pair, it reluctantly allows them their freedom since they've kept mum about the whole PT-1 disaster. Their peaceful lives come to a screeching halt when Melly receives a mass e-mail asking for help locating herself. The computer identifies the sender as a reporter. Frightened of an impending expose, Melly and Anny Beth flee, desperate to find a place where they can live safely and anonymously. They end up back where they started - in rural Kentucky - only to find danger close on their heels. Melly and Anny Beth only want to stay out of the spotlight, away from doctors and scientists, but can they keep running? Is there anywhere safe in a world where cameras follow people's every moves? Worse, will Melly and Anny Beth be exposed as the freaks they feel themselves to be? In a frantic race against time, the women must find safety in a world of increasing dangers.

I enjoyed the fast pace of the story as well as the characterization of the two heroines. I thought they were understated and believable. However, it's the central concept of the book that kept me most interested. Aging seems an odd choice of topic for a young adult novel, but I found it truly fascinating. Would I choose to stop my own aging process if I had the chance? Or would I grow old gracefully, without any regrets? If I had a second life, would I be able to live it up or would I be hopelessly lost in the past? Very thought-provoking. I also think the book made some excellent points about how progress both helps and hurts civilization. In the end, Haddix preaches the importance of family and heritage.

I don't know if this was Haddix's best book or not, but I plan to find out :)

3 comments:

  1. That's an incredibly interesting and original sounding plot. And an author I've never even heard of. I think I'll have to investigate. 8-)

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  2. Just so you know, this is a Card-approved author as well. All of Margaret Peterson Haddix's books count in the Cardathon challenge.

    Haddix is an incredible author, and I've never really been disappointed in her work.

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  3. Oh, I didn't realize Haddix was on the Card list. I'm loving her.

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