Book Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Posted June 30, 2012 by Renae // 4 Comments

Book Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Title: Don't Breathe a Word
Author: Holly Cupala
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary 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.

I picked up this book because, of all the hyped books that came out earlier this year, this one seemed like one I would actually like. I have a thing for realistic YA fiction, and, after the success of Amy Efaw’s After and Amy Reed’s Beautiful, I was in for another go. And while Don’t Breathe a Word was a good book, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

I divide this book into three phases. The first hundred words were okay, boring but okay—I wasn’t hooked but I liked what I read. The second hundred words were amazing—I was totally into this story of Joy trying to survive on the streets. The third hundred words were awful—disaster after disaster with a corny cliché ending on top.

Joy’s story just didn’t stand out for me, I guess. I didn’t feel anything for her, I guess. I mean, it’s awful that she had an abusive, controlling freak of a boyfriend, and while I’m glad that she ran away from him, I don’t think she handled it very well. Yes, he was blackmailing her, but running away like that? Melodramatic, almost. I don’t know, for me this felt like a standard cut-paste “get over your hurts and stand up for yourself” type novel.

And the thing that usually works for me in novels like these is the prose. Sadly, though, Cupala’s prose was flat and standard YA fare for me, unlike Amy Reed’s mesmerizing lyricism.

Altogether, I liked this book, but I don’t think it was the best that this genre has to offer.

Renae has written book reviews and other miscellany for Respiring Thoughts since 2012. She loves dogs, Mexican food, mountains, Shakespeare, and procrastinating. She's currently working on an undergrad degree in English/Spanish lit in the Midwest. Connect with Renae on Twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr.

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4 responses to “Book Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

  1. I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I want to read this one. It mostly caught my attention because the main character has asthma, which is something I’ve never come across in other books. But it sounds like it doesn’t live up to the hype, so maybe I’ll just pass on it for now.

    • Yeah, I don’t know. Characterization and style are my two priorities when it comes to books. If you don’t value those things as highly as I do, then I definitely see why this would be a hit.

  2. Wow, that’s too bad! I guess I find Holly’s writing a bit more raw. And I love it! I know some felt like the end was too well tied up in a bow and personally I’m a HEA girl, so I’m completely happy with it. But we can’t all love the same books. At least you liked a lot of it!

    • It wasn’t the bow-tie ending so much as the overdone way it was presented. Just me, though. And yeah, the middle section was to die for, haha.