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

Title: Don’t Breathe a Word
Author: Holly Cupala
Genre: YA contemporary fiction
Publisher: Harper Teen
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC passed on to me from the lovely Pam at Bookalicious
First line: Slyt. Slyt.

I am re-posting this review as today is the book’s release date. When I originally reviewed it, I didn’t realize it was still several months until it would be available.

Joy is a child of privilege. She has a gorgeous boyfriend, a father with a high-paying job, and a family who loves her. But instead of being happy, Joy is being suffocated – by her scarily controlling boyfriend, her asthma, her over-protective parents who are afraid she’ll stop breathing the minute they turn their backs. When her boyfriend, Asher, crosses a line, Joy sees no way out – except to leave. She runs away to the streets of Seattle, where she is taught how to survive as a homeless person by Creed, Santos, and May. But how long can she keep hidden, keep running, keep healthy on the streets? What secrets are her new friends keeping from her? And will she ever have the courage to face her own?

Last year, I was privileged to interview Holly Cupala and to review her first novel Tell Me a Secret, which I loved. With Don’t Breathe a Word, Holly has again written a beautiful work of contemporary YA fiction.

This book deals with issues like over-protective parenting, psychological abuse by a partner, and homelessness – all while telling the story of a breath-taking young woman. Joy takes the name Triste (“sadness” in French) as her street name, and it epitomizes what this young woman is going through. She is haunted by fear, shame, and despair – so much so that she is willing to give up her family and the comforts of a home rather than face her demons.

On the street, she meets a makeshift family, led by the talented Creed, whose ultimate dream is to become a musician. I love the way that music plays such an important part in both of Holly’s books. The relationship between Triste and Creed is so tentative, so fragile and complicated, but beautiful all the same. As I read, I was completely invested in their story, and couldn’t stop reading until I found out how things ended for them.

One of the things I most appreciate about both of Holly’s books is the authentic way she deals with the Christian faith. There are characters of faith in both books. Some have the kind of faith that is stifling and judgmental and, ultimately, hateful. Others show what it truly means to follow the teachings of Christ – to reach out to the poor, the needy, the hungry simply because they are valuable people worthy of love, not because they can be one more conversion to add to the list. In the real world, we see people of both of those kinds of faith all the time – but it seems that the former kind are the ones who get the most press. Kudos to Holly for showing that there are religious people who are also trying to be genuine people.

Thanks again to Pam for sending me this book. I highly recommend both of Holly’s books to those of you looking for YA fiction that deals with contemporary issues with beautifully written stories and characters.

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

  1. Kailana says:

    This sounds pretty good. I will have to look into this author.

  2. Vasilly
    Twitter: Vasilly

    Great review, Carrie. I hadn’t heard of Holly Cupula before this review.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Thanks, V – I hope you get a chance to try something by her.

  3. Sheila (Bookjourney)
    Twitter: bookjourney

    Love the cover and your thoughts here have made me take a closer look at this one! Thanks 😉

  4. Pam says:

    So glad you liked it. I think Holly tackes amazingly tough issues in a great way.

  5. Pingback: July reading wrap-up | BOOKS AND MOVIES

  6. Vasilly
    Twitter: Vasilly

    Thanks for reminding us of this book!

  7. irene says:

    thanks for such a compelling review. I shall have to check these out.