Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Title: Don't Breathe a Word
Author: Holly Cupala
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: January 3rd 2012
Pages: 299
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Joy Delamere is suffocating. From asthma, from her parents, and from her boyfriend, delectably dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out.
Joy can take his words—tender words, cruel words—until the night they go too far. Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe...if only she can get to Creed before it’s too late.
First sentence:
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I'd heard great things about Holly Cupala's debut, Tell Me a Secret, and Don't Breathe a Word, too, so I had pretty high expectations for this one. And while I struggled to get into it in the beginning, I really liked Don't Breathe a Word!

In the beginning, I had trouble understanding Joy's motivations. Yes, her boyfriend is emotionally abusive and how he treats her is horrible, but I still didn't understand why that would make her run away from home and live on the streets. I understand that she didn't want to break up with him or stand up to him because she was trying to protect her dad, but... I don't know, I can't imagine running away to live on the streets for that. Couldn't she have waited a little longer, saved some more money, and then run away to another city? She could have gotten a cheap motel room and started working somewhere. That, to me, seems much more logical than running away to live on the streets. And I know, she also did it because Creed sort of offered to help her and that drew her to the homeless, but still. I can't really explain it, but that reasoning wasn't enough for me, and that made it hard for me to get into the story in the beginning.

But once Joy ran away and started living with the homeless, I loved Don't Breathe a Word. I loved reading about Joy's life on the streets. I don't know much about being homeless (I volunteered at a shelter for a while, but really, I don't think you can know what it's like unless you've actually lived on the street), so this was really interesting to read about. I like that we got to read about everything from a newcomer's point-of-view - Joy doesn't know much about being homeless either, so it feels like you yourself are living on the streets, finding out how everything works. The plot is great; fast-paced and gripping, and it kept me turning the pages way past my bedtime. (I think how long a book can keep you up at night is the ultimate measure of how good it is.)

Joy is a good character. She's got a lot going on, with her asthma, her overprotective family, and Asher. I felt for her and related to her without a problem. One thing I didn't like, though, is how she always feels guilty for being with the rest of the homeless kids. She sees herself as a traitor and is always afraid of them finding out about "the real her." I get that this is supposed to protray how society doesn't accept emotional abuse as abuse as much as physical abuse, but still. I found that guilt and fear unrealistic, considering Creed's, May's and Santos's personalities. Creed's story isn't all that different from Joy's, really.

The secondary characters are what I loved most about Don't Breathe a Word. I loveloveloved Creed - he's amazing, the perfect love interest. The way he treats Joy is so sweet. The rest of the homeless population are complex characters, too - I loved reading about each of their stories and finding out about what got each of them on the streets. The strong bonds between the characters are really well-done.

I'm split on what to make of the ending. It's too happy to be realistic, but I kind of liked it anyways. Even though it's unrealistic considering the characters' situations, it made me so happy and hopeful, so I can't really complain about it.

With vivid, lyrical writing, a strong sense of atmosphere, a gripping plot and complex, lovable characters, Don't Breathe a Word is the story of a girl finding her inner strength in the most unlikely of situations. Maybe now that I've seen how amazing Holly Cupala is, I can get around to finishing Tell Me a Secret - I've listened to the first few chapters on podcasts, but because of the format (I don't really do audiobooks), I couldn't get into it. Maybe loving her sophomore novel will give me the incentive to buy a paper copy of Tell Me a Secret. But anyways, I loved Don't Breathe a Word, and I definitely recommend it!

If you've read this book, what did you think?


  1. Awesome review! This sounds like a really promising read and I'm glad you were able to enjoy it despite having trouble getting into it at first. And it's good to hear there is a strong set of secondary characters - that's something that a lot of books tend to lack. I can't wait to read this now! :)

  2. This review makes me happy. :)

    I read this book a while ago and I LOVED the beginning and the middle and EVERYTHING right up until the end which was, imo, so much the sunshine and rainbows after the raw intensity and emotionality of the rest of the book.

    And no one even seems to mention it in their review. So, even though you didn't really mind it, it nakes me happy you said something. :)

    But good review! For realz!

  3. Great review :) This has been on my TBR list forever. I'm glad you did like it ever if it was a bit difficult to get in to. After reading your review, I honestly want to read it a hundred times more! 
    - Jenni


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