I have been reading ”Don’t look behind you” by Lois Duncan. It was written in 1989 and published in 1990. This book is typical for Lois Duncan’s writing style. She takes teenage angst and self-conscious paranoia and spins them into a web of horror and mystery.
The main character in the book is April Corrigan. In the beginning of the novel she has a perfect life; great friends, a handsome boyfriend and her skills in tennis makes her future look promising. She likes to call herself a princess, and her room looks just like a princesses’. We don’t get to know her age, but since she’s got a driver’s licence, I guess she is around 17 years or so. I’ll say she is a static character. Mainly, she doesn’t change her opinions and values during the novel. She is very definite in what she think is right, whatever others might say.
Other important characters are her parents and her brother. Her mother, Elizabeth, is a children’s book author and her father, George, works at an airline. Her brother, George Bramwell, called Bram, is around 10-13 years old and has one brown and one blue eye. April’s grandmother, Lorelei, also plays an important role, also the new friends she makes and a killer named Mike Vamp.
The setting changes during the book. In the beginning we get a picture of April’s good life in Norwood, Virginia. Then they move around on different hotels for a while, before they move to a small town called Grove City in Florida. In the end they move to a new city, but we don’t get to know what it’s called.
I have already told some of the plot, but I’ll take it from the start. We meet the Corrigans, a middle class family in Virginia. The family consists of April, her parents, her brother and her grandmother (who doesn’t live with them). This takes probably place in the 1990’s, because they have modern comfort as cars, TV etc, and April’ mother writes her books with a typing machine.
It is a normal day in Norwood. April goes to school, and she arranges to study with her boyfriend, Steve, in the evening. Suddenly she is called to the principal’s office, where her grandmother awaits her. She brings April and her brother, Bram, home, where their uncle Max visits them. He tells them that they have to hide on a hotel, because their father has been working undercover for the FBI, and has got into trouble with some narcotic people. So an agent named Jim takes them to the Mayflower hotel in Richmond. They stay there for several weeks, and they are not allowed to take any contact with anybody. Still, April manages to send a letter to Steve to explain why she missed the prom, his graduation etc. Some days later a man, disguised like a hotel maid, knocks on the door. April gets suspicious, and won’t let him in. Jim had gone to a mall to get them some games, but arrives just as the man (named Mike Vamp) tries to break into their room. He attacks Mike, and when April opens the door some minutes later, they have disappeared. April calls uncle Max, and he moves them to another motel, where they are reunited with their father and husband. They later get to know that Mike killed Jim.
The Corrigans now receive their new identities as the Weber family, and moves into an old house in Lemon Lane, Grove City, Florida.
On their flight to Florida, the girl next to April, called Abby, starts to talk with her, and April presents her self as April Gross. April Gross because their ticket said that her name was Gross, and she was not yet Valerie Weber. She disliked her new name heavily.
In Grove City, April makes two new friends, Larry and Kim. She starts to meet Larry every morning to play tennis, but after a couple of weeks she can no longer ignore that Larry obviously wants to be more than just friends. April is loyal to Steve, and doesn’t let Larry get too close. Meanwhile, Kim and Larry’s cousin comes to visit them, and it turns out that it is Abby from the plane. April Abby that she must have seen someone who looked like her, but Abby is sure that she is right, though no one believes her.
One weekend April joins Larry on a party, and she gets drunk. She says some things she shouldn’t, and Larry gets very suspicious to April. He is mad at her because she didn’t want to make out with him at the party, and they lose contact. April decides to leave Florida and go back to Norwood to live with her grandmother. She tells her mother that she is going to stay as Kim’s place for the weekend, so her parents wouldn’t find out before she could call them from her hometown. Steve meets April at the airport and she discovers that he has started dating her old best friend. Broken-hearted, she arrives at her grandmother’s apartment. Her grandmother has had a visit from Mike Vamp, and he had broken her arm. Lorelei decides to go with April back to Florida to live with her remaining family, and after a short while they leave Norwood for good. This time they travel by Lorelei’s Porsche. April is driving because of Lorelei’s arm, and she soon finds out that a black car is tailing them. They get rid of the tracker, but they lost their map (with a drawn route), so Mike Vamp (who was in the black car and who stole the map) finds out about Grove City anyway. When April and Lorelei arrives at Lemon Lane, the house is empty and the parent’s car is in the ditch, so they get very worried (It later turns out that April’s mother had found out that April didn’t spend her weekend at Kim’s, and hurried out in the car to check if it was true, while she was drunk). Mike Vamp shows up and shuts them in a closet, but April manages to escape. She makes it to the Porsche before he points a gun at her and tells her to get out. She does as he says, but hits him in the head with her tennis racket. He falls in the river and probably dies.
After this, the family feels much more safe. They change their names once more and move to a new city. The last thing we get to know is that April meets a new boy that she seems to like very much.
I really liked this book. It was a typical teenager book, but it was exciting to read it. I really understood how April felt, and Lois Duncan gives a good picture of how it is to be under FBI’s witness protection program, and it doesn’t tempt me to try it out. You get ripped out of your life, and have to start all over, completely on your own. All they got from the FBI was identities, a terrible house and April’s father got a lousy business that was bound to go bankrupt. The fact that April is a bit materialistic also shows how bad it is to lose practically everything you own and not have the economic opportunity to get what you want, even though everyone says that money is not the most important in life. I think the book is very realistic on how a teenager would react to this massive turnaround of his or her life, and I recommend it as a thought-provoking book for today’s young people to show them how good their life actually is.