In 2000, Amelia is 100 years old, living in a nursing home and waiting to die, when a couple of doctors ask her to sign a release form to join a unique scientific study. Soon, she has been moved to a new facility with 50 other elderly patients who are now all a part of Project Turnabout. The two doctors in charge have administered a drug to all of them that is “unaging” them; they are all becoming younger each day. At first, they are all thrilled; each day, they are regaining lost skills – hearing, walking, memory – but there are some catches. The biggest one is that the doctors assumed they could stop the process at any time, but it turns out they can’t.
After a few years, Amelia and her new friend, Anny Beth, decide to leave the facility and live out their second chance lives on their own. When the novel opens in 2085, Anny Beth has unaged to 18 and Amelia just turned 15, and they are both still getting younger. They realize they will not be able to care for themselves much longer and need to figure out what to do. They think they have plenty of time, until an ancestor of Amelia’s tries to get in touch with them. The super-secret project required them to break all ties to family (their families thought they died of old age) in order to avoid becoming the center of a media circus.
The action goes back and forth from the start of the project to the present day in 2085, gradually filling in the stories of the project’s inception and Amelia and Anny Beth’s long, eventful reverse lives. I was captivated by this unique story and all the questions it provoked. It’s a fascinating concept to consider. There was plenty of suspense, not only in finding out how Amelia and Anny Beth would address their problem of turning back into children but also how they would elude the persistent family member following them. The details of the project and its progress are also gradually revealed. In all, this is a fast-paced and compelling story that easily kept my attention. I finished it in just a few days and look forward to reading more of Haddix’s novels.