Don’t Look Behind You Summary

Lois Duncan

Don’t Look Behind You

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

Don’t Look Behind You Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Don’t Look Behind You by Lois Duncan.

Don’t Look Behind You is a 1990 young adult novel written by Lois Duncan. The novel tells the story of seventeen-year-old April Corrigan after her family is forced to enter the witness protection program and relocate to a different state. April, who has trouble adjusting to the new circumstances, tries to regain some of her old life at great risk to her loved ones. The novel was critically acclaimed upon its release, winning young reader book awards in multiple states including Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, Indiana, and Washington. The novel was adapted into a television movie directed by David Winning and starring Patrick Duffy in 1999.

April Corrigan is a happy, carefree high school junior in Norwood, Virginia. She is a star player on the school’s tennis team, has a loving boyfriend named Steve, and is looking forward to going to college. She is generally a nice girl, but can be a little self-centered—hence her nickname, “Princess April.” April’s father, who is employed by an airline, is working undercover for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to expose his boss’s drug smuggling activities. The drug smugglers have hired a hit man and made threats against the family to keep him from testifying against his boss. One day, April’s maternal grandmother, Lorelai, comes to sign her out of school early.

April finds out that someone had shot at her father in the courtroom that day. April’s uncle, an FBI agent, decides it would be best to move the family out of their house to a nearby hotel for the remainder of the trial. The Corrigans relocate to a hotel room and are assigned a bodyguard. They are forbidden from making phone calls or leaving the hotel. April grows bored and is angry over having to miss her high school prom and Steve’s graduation. She surreptitiously writes a letter and mails it to Steve, revealing information about the family’s location. As a result of April’s letter, a hit man named Mike Vamp tracks the family down at the hotel and tries to break into their room. The bodyguard saves the family but is killed in the process.

After the close call with Vamp, the Corrigans are placed in the Witness Security Program and relocated to the small town of Grove City, Florida. Only Lorelai stays behind in Virginia. Because the family must stay as secretive as possible, April’s mother can no longer write, and April can no longer play tennis. April’s younger brother, Bram, must get contact lenses to hide his distinctive, differently colored eyes. Mrs. Corrigan begins drinking, while Mr. Corrigan blames himself for the family’s situation. April tries to cope with her new life but desperately yearns for her old one. When the family goes on a trip to Disney World, April meets an old friend from her tennis team, who tells her that Steve is now dating another girl.

April is devastated when she hears this news and gets drunk at a party with her new friend Larry, who has a romantic interest in her. In her drunken state, she accidentally tells Larry who she is and where her family is really from. Larry is alarmed and suspects the family of being involved in criminal activities. April decides she wants to go back to her old life, even if it puts her family in danger. She buys a plane ticket back to Virginia, planning to live with Lorelai while she finishes high school. When she arrives back in Norwood, however, she realizes that too much has changed in her absence and that her life would never be the same again even if she returns home.

Lorelai takes April back to Florida not realizing that hitman Mike Vamp is following them. When Lorelai and April arrive back at the Corrigans’ new house, they find it empty. The rest of the family had gone out to look for April after she disappeared. Mrs. Corrigan’s drinking had caused a car accident along the way, landing the family in the hospital. Before the Corrigans return, Vamp breaks into the house and confronts April. He tells her that he was able to track her family down at the hotel because of her letter to Steve. April flees the house in terror but is pursued by Vamp. However, she manages to kill him by hitting him over the head with a tennis racket. April and Lorelai eventually reunite with the rest of the Corrigans and they are finally able to move on with their lives.

The main themes of the novel are family, sacrifice, selfishness, identity, secrets, fear, and change. April puts her whole family in danger several times because she is unable to accept that her idyllic life has been shattered and to adjust to her new circumstances. Other members of April’s family, most notably her mother, also have difficulty coping with having to abandon their old lives and identities and start new ones. April matures throughout the novel and feels guilty when she realizes that her selfish actions have endangered her family. She uses her own wits to escape danger and finally learns to accept her new life.