Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review- Don't Breathe A Word by Holly Cupala

Don't Breathe A Word
by Holly Cupala
Harper Teen
Available Now

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 novel shows just how little it takes for a girl to go from happy and somewhat normal to controlled and abused.  Joy, though having severe asthma and being constantly watched by her family for the first signs of an illness, has friends that she laughs with and talks to.  She is well adjusted and generally okay, though feeling a bit suffocated by all the attention at home.  But along comes Asher, much older and wiser, rich, powerful, mysterious and he shows an interest in Joy. That's almost all it takes.  She gives up complete control to him and loses herself to his needs, wants and desires.  She believes everything he tells her, his threats, his anger-she did this, she brought it on herself, she belongs to him-she is his property.
Again, she is suffocated by his attention, his "love", his threats.

The book opens with her cutting her long hair off, twenty inches of it and stuffing it in an envelope.  She dyes her dark hair blonde, white blonde along with her eyebrows.  She doesn't want to be found.  She fakes her own kidnapping. And she flees to the "safety" of the streets of Seattle.  The streets where she saw a boy who told her he could help her.  

It's risky and I think Joy is reckless considering how close she comes to dying when she even gets a cold.  She prepares with several inhalers, but what good is that against infection?  She's  doe eyed when she hits the streets.  She doesn't realize what could happen to her.  I think it's stupid considering what you read in the papers.  Her goal is to find the boy who said he could help her.  In the meantime, she stick out like a sore thumb.  I also don't think her reaction to living on the street is quite what it should be.  In just a few days, she goes from eating at a table and wearing designer clothes, to eating out of a dumpster and wearing Salvation Army clothes.  But she doesn't seem to be as bothered by it as she should be.  She lives in a house that smells like crap, literally and that's where she goes to the bathroom.  In a toilet that hasn't flushed for years.

However, I don't think this was a book so much about living on the streets as it was about Joy, being so desperate, that she gave up her life of middle class luxury and her family, to live on the streets to escape an abusive boyfriend because that was the only way out that she saw.  She'd never told anyone so she didn't have anyone to turn to for help.  She doesn't even confide in her "street family".  There are some realities of
what it's like for teens living on the street and the reasons they do.  Abusive parents, foster care, drugs. The reasons go on and when they hit the streets bad things can happen.

But this novel shows how good things can happen, too.  Not necessarily from living on the street, but from finding people to care about and care about you.  How to start healing from the hurt.  How to get stronger and believe in yourself.  What it takes to walk away.

Yes, there is some romance, not much of it, but Creed, the protector of the group and the boy that said he could help Joy is one of a kind.  He's sensitive and tough all at once.  But not the brooding type.  Tough as in street smarts.  I liked his character a lot.  He was always worried about his friends/family.  

May, the other girl in the story was an enigma to me. I wasn't sure what was going on with her. I liked her at times and not at others and never really figured out her relationship with Santos, the other member of the "family." We never get the full story on Santos, at least not from his lips, but I think we can piece it together and it's sad.  

 The author's note in the back of the book states that Seattle has one of the highest population of homeless teens in the United States.  In the US alone we have 1.6 million homeless teens.  The story in this book was just a sampling of the reasons teens leave home.  

For me, the title had so many meanings.  Asher would not want her to Breathe a Word of what he was doing to her.  She couldn't Breathe a Word to her family without jeopardizing  the family's well being.  And on the street she couldn't have anyone Breathe a Word because she'd be found out.  Then, when she has an asthma attack, she literally can't Breathe a Word.  Best use of a title ever!

I liked how things worked out in the end.  Not everyone can be saved from their demons, but maybe one person can help. And you will definitely fall for Creed.  He's like a big wall that stands between you and the rest of the world keeping the bad things away as much as he's capable of doing.  And he plays the guitar.

Highly recommended for all ages.  There is some drug use and reference to sex, but no actual scenes with it or descriptions.
Just Contemporary Challenge

Many smiles,


  1. Wow, sounds terrific, and the title does have so many connections to what is going on in her life! A difficult topic but seems like it was addressed well.

  2. I really like the sound of this one even with some of the believability issues with her going from designer clothes to street living with hardly batting an eye. And I think I will definitely be falling for Creed, guitars get me every time! Awesome review Heather, you have me a good feel for this book!

  3. Thanks Girls!! It is definitely worth the read!! I couldn't put it down.

    And Jenny, what is it about guys that can sing to us? My heart breaks every time I see a guy with a guitar singing to a girl in a movie or read it in a book. That's all it would take for me to fall in love!


  4. I haven't read a novel by Holly Cupala before, but this sounds definitely like a book I want to read! Thank you very much for your review. I'll put Don't Breath A Word on my wishlist right now!

  5. This sounds like a pretty heavy read, but heavy in a good way!
    - Jessica @ Book Sake


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