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Reviewed by Brittany Shermach, Teen Support Staff Member at the SCFPL
Don't Look Back is a novel full of mystery, excitement, and drama. It details the life of teen girl, Samantha, right after going through a tragic accident resulting in amnesia. Throughout the novel, she is desperately hoping to recover her memory as well as any clues that may lead her back to the night when she lost her memory and her best friend Cassie disappeared.
I chose to read Don't Look Back because I was interested by the mental aspect that the amnesia brought to the novel, as well as being a sucker for a good mystery. The amnesia was explored in a fashion that kept readers wanting to know more and more throughout. I felt myself growing impatient at moments when I wanted nothing more than to uncover the next clue regarding the mysterious night that brought on Samantha's amnesia. Throughout the book, another main theme was the metamorphosis Samantha had gone through post-amnesia. Before the amnesia, she was hated and feared by almost everyone that attended her high school. She was a ruthless queen bee character who wanted nothing more than to shame and embarrass those who she perceived as lower than herself. After being struck with amnesia, however, her personality completely changed. Gone was the aggressive Sam who wanted to rule the school. Instead Sam became more quiet and reserved, looking to repent for her past crimes and move on as a better person. Though I support that mission fully, I wasn't completely happy with the way the author chose to portray it. There were some moments where it just felt like the same repetitive actions going on over and over again with Sam's internal monologue being repulsed with her former self yet again. As important as this aspect clearly is, I think that more time could have been spent developing the character in different ways. You don't grow to know much about the old or new Sam throughout the novel, which makes it harder to connect with her as a main character. Elongated scenes such as these or some of the romantic scenes (which I will spare details from to keep the spoilers away) seemed to make the story move slowly and at some parts even made the characters and situations clichéd. Although some moments kept the pages flipping, some had me wanting to skim over the repetitive details and boring, overdone physical descriptors of infatuation. With that being said, however, Don't Look Back is still an enticing mystery novel with the added bonus of being rife with relationships, menality, and self-discovery. I think that my favorite thing about the novel was the dynamic portrayal of amnesia and other mental issues such as panic, dissociation, and depression. Being from a first-person view, you really get to see how these effect Sam's functions and actions on a daily basis. The mystery and non-romantic bits of this novel really were interesting, and the mix of characters, clues, and red herrings will keep you guessing about that penultimate night in old Sam's life right up until the big reveal. I still don't know how to feel about the ending, but it certainly left me with a sense of closure on the novel. I would read this novel strictly for the plot, but would personally bypass the quintessential teen romance, bland character development, and somewhat stale dialogue. If you're a fan of mystery and mentality, though, and you love dramatic teen romance, you may very well want to pick up this novel next time you're at the library!
Overall rating: 5/10: Interesting mystery and mentality, boring characters and cliché romance.