Description: 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.
My thoughts: This is the type of book that you can tell is going to be good just because of the writing, even before anything has really happened. In fact, at the beginning I had no idea what was happening. It was peculiar. And even though this book is considered contemporary, it almost seemed otherworldy even though there was no kind of magic or faeries or vampires, etc. That’s what initially captured my attention, and then Joy and her new family’s story was what kept it.
Joy has a difficult problem to deal with, one that is in my opinion very relatable whether or not readers are going through the same problem. The relatable factor is that it’s easier to see a problem if it seems definite, like abuse is easy to assess when it’s physical instead of verbal. Things become blurry when we try to assess verbal abuse. Does it count if it’s not connected with the physical aspect? Is it really abuse if they don’t do it too often? Confusion like this encourages people to subject themselves to troubles they shouldn’t have to deal with, and this is what Joy and her newfound family have to face.
That’s another thing that sets this book apart, because it’s also about the people who take Joy in. They’ve got problems of their own, and their story is just as important as the Joy’s is. In many other books, the friends of the main character are mostly there to help support the main character, and not because they also have a problem that needs to be dealt with.
In Don’t Breathe a Word, these problems are rough. They’re all going through so much. And just like in my recent review of Desert Angel, it’s hard to take, because things like this really do happen. And after all that happened, it was easier for me to accept the ending, which otherwise would have seemed too sweet or unrealistic. But all the characters had gone through so much that there was no other to end the story.
Additional note: This is a powerful novel that wouldn’t have been even half as good without Holly Cupala’s wonderful writing. I hadn’t read anything by Cupala until Don’t Breathe a Word so I definitely have to check out Tell Me a Secret and Dear Bully.