Rummanah Aasi
 At one point in our lives we all thought about running away. We can picture ourselves packing up our necessities and leaving our homes with vows of never returning. For many of us, it is just a fleeting desire as we realize that we are acting upon our heighten emotions and logic require us to think rationally but there are others who don't feel like they have an option and running away is a way of surviving. Joy Delamere belongs to the latter category.

Description (from Goodreads): 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

Review:  Don't Breathe a Word weaves two separate threads that come together in a grim but powerful take on an abusive relationship and a coming-of-age love story. While they don't entirely mesh well, the plot keeps the reader engaged throughout. Joy Delamere suffers from asthma. Her illness is a literal and metaphorical prison that shuts her in and burdens her family until she meets dangerous, sexy, and wealthy Asher. While their romance is liberating and exciting at first, but it becomes another prison as Asher becomes abusive and gains power over Joy and her family. In desperation, Joy decides to runaway. She fakes her kidnapping and flees, losing herself among the homeless teen population on Seattle's Capitol Hill. Joy quickly realizes as after a couple of days on her own that she is not cut out for the rough lifestyle. Her suburban naivete gets her in very dangerous circumstances, but four teen squatters led by an attractive musician, Creed, take her in and teach her street smarts. Each of the four teen squatters have their own problems which range from having a neglectful parent with a drug problem to being thrown out from the family because of their sexual orientation, which propel them to be homeless.
 Unlike the sadistic and abusive Asher, Creed is gently protective of Joy.  I didn't really see Joy and Creed having a romantic relationship but thought they had more like a brother-sister relationship. Though Cupala does a great job in developing Joy and allowing her to become her own, I thought the tough issues are too easily resolved which lessens the book's power and authenticity. Despite this, I thought the book's vivid setting and characters, particularly Joy's street family who are broken, jaded, and original, kept my attention while reading the book. While Don't Breathe a Word may lack believability and is not the typical book I would read, I do recommend it for readers who like gritty contemporary fiction that ends on a hopeful note.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: Due to the book's strong language, allusions to sex and prostitution, references to sexual and physical abuse, and drug use I think this book is suitable for older YA readers from Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Kara, Lost by Susan Niz, Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen, Life is Funny by E.R. Frank, Compromised by Heidi Ayarbe
7 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Too bad things are resolved quickly and easily, but I love the sound of these characters. I think her whole street family will really appeal to me. Beautiful review Rummanah!

  2. Yup, quickly resolved problems always make me feel like the 'hardship' was a scam of some kind. That's unfortunate, but I can't help being curious about Creed.

  3. I can see how the resolve being too quick would be bad. However, this still sounds like an interesting book. Gritty? Oh yea... that's me. ;D

  4. Aw, it's too bad that things get resolved too easily. Just from the summary though, you can tell that Joy in a way is lucky because she gets taken in by a group of other teens. I'm sure there are a countless number of teens who have to learn to survive on their own.

  5. LoriStrongin Says:

    I've definitely been wanting to read this book because of the rise of teen runaways (and home abuse being on the rise as a precursor). Bummer to hear things feel resolved too quickly, but I still think I'll probably pick this one up.


  6. Anonymous Says:

    I loved the last book by this author, so Im for sure going to give this one a try. Im not crazy about easy outs but I do love a gritty read and seeing characters overcome...:D

    That kind of sounded like a song

  7. I'm not really into gritty contemps mostly because they depress me and life sucks enough. Still, I do get intrigued by the story line and the eventual falling action and resolution. A lot of the gritty contemps I do like, but the more difficult ones I just can't read. This sounds like the latter. Excellent review, Rummanah. It sounds as though the author did a wonderful job bringing the setting and characters to life.

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