Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Book: Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala, HarperTeen, January 3, 2012, YA Contemporary

Format/pages:  Read Overdrive library ebook, also available in paperback 299 pages.

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

More Info: Amazon | Goodreads

I snapped up the e-book of Don’t Breathe a Word from the library based on the great reviews I’d seen, and this is the first book I’ve read by author Holly Cupala. I didn’t know much about it before diving in and before I knew it I had torn through half the book. Cupala’s second book is a gritty and engrossing read that tackles the homeless issue. This addictive book has heartbreaking characters and unsettling situations that kept my attention throughout.

The story is that Joy is in an abusive relationship with Asher that has taken over her life. She sees no way out of it and has nowhere to turn.  Even her overprotective parents who watch her like a hawk due to her severe asthma can’t help her out of this mess. She remembers a boy who witnessed Asher’s behavior and offered his help. With just that promise she takes to the streets to find the boy and try to survive on the streets on her own.

Life on the streets of Seattle is tough and Cupala does not sugarcoat the difficulties that Joy faces on her journey.  It is eye opening to see the challenges Joy faces on a day to day basis to find food, shelter, and other necessities, all while trying to manage her chronic medical condition. It was hard for me to believe that Joy didn’t feel she had anywhere else to turn but the streets, but I have to admit it makes for a fascinating read. The situations seemed harsh and are uncomfortable to read about but felt realistic and kept my eyes riveted to the page.

Through interwoven flashbacks we get a glimpse of what drove Joy out of her home.  Asher is a creepy guy on many levels, and the opposite of the protector in her street family, Creed.  In addition to nice guy musician Creed, Joy bonds with May and Santos who show her the ropes and help her find her own value, even though they have overwhelming challenges of their own. They have each other’s backs and act as a family living one-day at a time.

Though the homeless storyline was enough to hook me, the relationships also stand out. It is unusual to read about the terror of emotional abuse such as the case between Asher and Joy. Though most of the book focuses on life after the escape from Asher, brief flashbacks of their relationship are powerful and gave me a sense of the destructive hold he had over her.

Cupala is a great storyteller, and kept the tension ramped up throughout. I cared about what happened to Joy and the other characters, and found the ending ultimately satisfying. This is a fast, empowering read that should appeal to contemporary fans. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Check out more reviews of Don’t Breathe a Word and the book trailer:

Chick Loves Lit


Sophistikatied Reviews

Caught Between The Pages

I Read Banned Books


6 thoughts on “Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I love books that tackle issues in such an engrossing way. This one sounds excellent.

  2. Candice says:

    I remember the first time I saw this book and thought how hard it sounds (if that makes sense). I’m always hesitant to read books that tackle “real” issues – I think it’s because I’m a little fearful of them, that they’ll make me think too much about the sad issues going on in today’s world. Maybe that’s a dumb reason… because clearly I miss out on some great lit due to my fear.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    This one sounds interesting… I am a bit curious to see how she deals with the homeless issues, guess I’ll have to track this one down!

  4. Such a haunting book. Great review.

  5. Thanks for the link love 😉

  6. […] Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala – Takes you inside the life of a runaway trying to survive on the […]

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