Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

2012, Harper Teen, Holly Cupala, review, stand alone, young adult 7 Comments 21st December, 2011

Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: January 3, 2012
Source: Publisher for review
Series: Stand Alone
Purchase: Book Depository

Joy Delamere is suffocating…

From asthma, which has nearly claimed her life. From her parents, who will do anything to keep that from happening. From 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.

Set against the gritty backdrop of Seattle’s streets and a cast of characters with secrets of their own, Holly Cupala’s powerful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the meaning of love, and how far a girl will go to discover her own strength.

This is one of the darkest contemporaries I’ve read, but also one of the best. I had a hard time getting into the book for the first 70 or so pages, but once I delved deeper into the story, it grabbed me. I think I stayed up all night to finish it. Dark and gritty, this is one story that won’t be forgotten.
Would I loved most about this book was that it doesn’t give you the answers at the beginning. While you have an idea of why Joy needed to escape her smothering boyfriend, you have to read the entire book to truly understand what was going on. It’s presented in alternating chapters between past and present, with the past mostly highlighting her interactions with Asher. He seems perfect at first, but as you go back with Joy you realize who he really is. I didn’t like Joy’s family one bit, especially her older brother. Her parents were completely oblivious, but her brother had an idea of what was going on. But when Joy shows up with her friend unexpectedly, he turns her away. His own sister. I’m sorry, but honestly? I’m incredibly thankful I don’t have a family like that.
Joy is an unforgettable character. She endures everything Asher throws at her, and yet hits a point where she realizes enough is enough. And is then brave enough to leave and live on the streets. I don’t know that I could be as strong as she was and survive on the streets. She searches for Creed, the boy she remembers seeing on previous trips into Seattle, and finds him. With Creed and his group she learns how truly dark the world is, and yet still fights to be her own person.
This was the first book of Holly’s that I had read, and the writing was amazing. She covered a span of tough subjects brilliantly without sugarcoating them, but still managed to give Don’t Breathe a Word a somewhat believable ending that I was pleased with. This is definitely one of those books that will keep you thinking about the different problems that face our society after you’ve finished the book. And helps to raise awareness of those problems. Verbal abuse is just as hurtful as physical, and I’m glad Holly wasn’t afraid to write about this subject.

7 Responses to “Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala”

  1. Ashley

    I was a bit more forgiving of the brother than you are. It would be stifling and smothering in a different way to have been told your whole life that YOU are responsible for taking care of your sister & that HER life depends on you. I can’t imagine living with that type of pressure from so young. And, he does redeem himself a bit after he realizes that she’s missing, b/c he puts a lot of effort into searching for her.

    What made me saddest about her family, is that she didn’t trust them enough to tell them what was going on, didn’t feel like they could take it, or help.

    This was an AMAZINGLY powerful book. And I LOVED it. Until the ending. I felt that this book fell victim to the pretty package, topped w/ a bow ending. For the harsh & bitter reality of the book, the ending sure was rather upbeat… But, *shrugs* It’s a testament to the power of her writing that I’m still in love with the book and willing to recommend it to a LOT of people.

  2. Chelsey @ Starry Sky Books

    @ Ashley – You’re right, the brother does redeem himself. I’d forgotten about him searching for her near the end. I can definitely see and understand why he’d be resentful of her and just want some freedom. That kind of situation is in a way damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    I can somewhat understand her inability to trust even her family. While I have an awesome relationship with my mom, there are definitely things I don’t tell her about myself, because I don’t want her to worry and they’re things I need to work with on my own. But it’s always sad when a family can’t rely on each other in ways like this. And I think a lot of families are exactly like this in the US because of what’s going on currently, and also because a lot of us do seem to be somewhat blind to things happening to others around us.

    It’s one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. I don’t read contemporary too often just because fantasy is my all time favorite genre, but I wanted to read a dark contemporary just to expand my reading. This one definitely covers tough topics.

  3. Ashley

    Totally agree abt the damned if you do/don’t thing. DEFINITELY the case there. I think his was a bit of willful ignorance for a bit.

    And there are definitely things every person chooses not to share with their family. But here, it felt that she didn’t feel like her parents could handle it, like they couldn’t take it, and that to me, was sad. That she felt she had to fake a kidnapping and live on the streets because her parents weren’t strong enough.

    I LOVE Contemporary. It’s my favorite genre, by far. There are some intensely powerful Contemps out there. If you ever need a rec… I’m MORE than happy to oblige 🙂

  4. Chelsey @ Starry Sky Books

    It definitely is sad that she felt that way. Faking a kidnapping is never the right way to accomplish something. I can only hope that if I were ever in a situation like that, or when I ever have kids if they were in one like that, that I or they would be able to talk to family about it. I also think it was in a small way to protect them too though, which is still sad because children shouldn’t have to protect their parents. I remember her not wanting her dad to lose his job because of what was happening with her and Asher.

    I’ll definitely take you up on your offer sometime! I’m a little behind right now on books I need to be read, so it may be a while, but I’ll definitely make note of it so I won’t forget. Thanks! 🙂

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