Melly and Anny Beth have gotten shots that make them grow younger by the day in Project Turnabout. Soon they will be too young to take care of themselves and they need to find help before time runs out.
Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many memorable novels for young readers, including Just Ella, Among the Hidden, and Running Out of Time. Her work has been honored with the International Reading Association Children's Book Award, American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults and Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers citations, and several state readers' choice awards.
Where did the idea for Turnabout come from? "I bought a card for a friend, joking that it's actually good that we get older, not younger, on our birthdays because -- as the punch line went -- who would want to live through puberty twice? It made me wonder: What if someone had to? I already had age and aging on my mind because I'd just attended my grandmother's ninetieth birthday party, and I'd recently visited my husband's grandmother in Kentucky, a month before her death. Somehow all those things -- the card's question, the ninetieth birthday, the Kentucky visit -- meshed in my mind. Turnabout was the result."
From Part One April 21, 2085My sixteenth birthday. Sad, sad day. What I mind most -- what I've been dreading most -- is losing my license. I could still pass for being older for at least another year or two, but the agency won't let me. Against the rules, they say. We know best, they say. How can they be so sure when this is all new territory?At least Anny Beth can still drive, since she's only eighteen. I don't know what I'd do without Anny Beth. I don't know what we'll do when she hits sixteen. And beyond that...The agency lady called this morning to make sure I was ready for her annual visit. She said, "You still seem to be holding up."I said, "I don't like the other choices."She didn't laugh, the way I meant her to.I told her my Memory Book was done, and she said, "It's not easy, is it?"How do you answer a question like that?My body feels good. Healthy. Teeming with life and possibility. I remember this feeling from the last time. I had such hope for the future then.It's not the same when my body feels hopeful and my mind knows that the future is only sixteen more years of loss.April 21, 2085Melly and Anny Beth went out dancing to celebrate Melly's birthday. They hardly needed any excuse for dancing anymore. It was like some rhythm sang in their bones all the time, secretly urging, "Dance. Run. Move. Get going!" Melly went jogging every morning now, and Anny Beth did aerobics three or four nights a week, but somehow that wasn't enough. They'd talked about it; neither one of them remembered the dancing urge being quite so powerful the first time."But there were always chores then," Melly had said. "All those buckets of water I had to lug up the hill...all the grain we thrashed by hand...I used to fall into bed too worn out even to sleep.""Not me," Anny Beth had said, with her usual ornery grin. "I always had energy at night."Melly had playfully slugged her.They were acting more like kids now. Melly knew that. She thought about Ms. Simmons's pursed lips and knew how she'd view Melly and Anny Beth's behavior. But what was she going to say -- "Act your age"? Which age?They stepped into the dance club now, their silver boots gleaming in the strobe lights. The crowd in front of them was a blur of tie-dye, neon polyester, and smiley-face prints. Melly figured that this was about the fifth time in her life that the fashions of the 1970s were "in." What was so enduring about all those psychedelic daisies that they kept coming back? This time, though, the look always had to be paired with what Anny Beth called "futuristic Reynolds Wrap." No one else in the dance club remembered foil, of course, since aluminum had been mined out years ago. Melly caught a glimpse of herself in the mirrored walls. With her short, fitted silver dress and glittery eye shadow and multi-colored hair, she looked just like a "Predictions of the Future" fashion display she'd seen several decades ago. Had the fashion futurists been so wise that they knew what was coming, or had these fashions come into style simply because that was what people predicted? Were all successful prophecies self-fulfilling?Melly thought about sharing her musings with Anny Beth, but decided against it. "What are you doing, thinking again?" Anny Beth would say. "It's your birthday. We're at a club. Dance."It was too loud to talk anyhow. Melly threw herself into the music, jerking her limbs alongside dozens of other anonymous bodies.Hours later Anny Beth leaned over and shouted in Melly's ear. " -- eat?" was all Melly caught. Melly nodded. They went to a restaurant next door and ordered the largest platters of burgers and fries available. Melly's ears were still ringing when their food arrived."If I really were a teenager with decades ahead of me, I would not be ruining my ears like that," Melly said. "I can't believe what those kids do.""Oh, don't be such an o