TURNABOUT by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Age Range: 11 - 16
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In this intriguing, thought-provoking, and certainly original novel, Amelia Lenore Hazelwood is 100 years old and living in a nursing home where the only thing she has to look forward to is death. Everything changes though when 50 of the nursing-home residents are selected to participate in a top-secret “unaging” experiment, labeled Project Turnabout. Using a special chemical, the old people will become younger and younger until they take a drug that will stop the de-aging process—then they will forever be that age. But there’s been a problem, and the drug designed to stop the process doesn’t work. Now Amelia and the others face de-aging until infancy and then, presumably, death. The story, told by Amelia as the process begins in the year 2000 and also as a 16-year-old (now nicknamed “Melly”) in 2085, follows Melly and her best friend Anny Beth’s attempts to find someone to take care of them as they revert to childhood and babyhood. The two friends run away to Amelia’s childhood home which, surprisingly, still stands and is inhabited by Melly’s great-great-great granddaughter, A.J. Hazelwood. Ironically, A.J., a reporter, has been researching Amelia’s life. Melly decides that A.J. is the best candidate to be her surrogate mother and they form a highly unusual family. As in some of her other work, Haddix (Among the Hidden, 1998, etc.) examines the role of an outsider navigating her way through an unfamiliar culture. She gets in a few good digs at some of the less savory aspects of American popular culture that only get worse as her fictional 21st century progresses. “ ‘Why is it,’ Anny Beth asks as the two watch TV, ‘that with everything else that’s improved in the last eighty years, TV news still stinks?’ ” The book raises philosophical questions that young-adult readers will sink their teeth into about the desirability of living longer lives than we do today, of the role of old people in our society, and about the ethics of medical experimentation. A fascinating concept engrossingly told. (Fiction. 11-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-689-82187-5
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2000


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