Don't Breathe a Word

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Don't Breathe a Word
Author(s)
Publisher
Genre(s)
Age Range
14+
Release Date
January 03, 2012
ISBN
978-0061766695
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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.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

Already on my Best of 2012 list!
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Joy, a life-long asthma sufferer is literally suffocating in her life. Her family suffocates her with their constant worry about her health - is she taking her medicine? Does she have her emergency inhalers? Will the next coughing fit land her in the hospital again, or worse, will this be the time she stops breathing for good? The medical bills and her parents job situations have taken a toll on everyone in the family. Then there's her asthma. If the air isn't clean enough or she strains her lungs too much she literally suffocates.

Her boyfriend Asher, who is the definition of "control freak", suffocates her with his words, affection and the manipulative way he shows his love to her. (which isn't love at all) He leaves scars that are both seen and unseen. Her family either doesn't notice or chooses to not to notice how much of driving force he is in her life.

Joy's relationship with Asher is unhealthy right from the start. The pull she feels towards him is a powerful one and she recognizes the control he has over her but she can't seem to make herself leave. After awhile, he won't let her. When things go too far one night, farther than just cruel words, or mere threats, Joy realizes the only way to protect herself and her family is to escape.

She's convinced that the best place to go is the streets of Seattle, to disappear into the homeless population there. She's seen them numerous times, even accompanied her older brother Jesse while he handed out sandwiches but it was the last time with her friends that's etched in her mind. Asher had been upset with her and after the homeless boy witnessed Asher's harsh treatment, he'd offered Joy his help, saying, "If you ever need help, you know where to find me." (pg 79) She believes if she can just find that boy again, she'll be okay.

With a drastic new appearance and only a backpack to her name Joy sets off to search for the boy and begin her new life on the street. When she finally does catch up with "Creed", she discovers that life out there is much harder and more dangerous than she ever imagined. He lives with two others, Santos and May, in an abandon house with no running water which means no bathroom facilities and no showers. They sleep on dirty mattresses while scavenging for food in dumpsters or shoplifting it. Joy meets other people too, many of whom are not as nice and who are willing to do whatever it takes to survive on the streets. Whether it's selling drugs, prostitution, panhandling or modeling (nude) for local art students these teens will do whatever is necessary to survive. There are shelters nearby offering clean showers, hot meals and warm beds but many of the kids are afraid of being returned to foster care or in Joy's case, turned into the police if her family or Asher is looking for her.

Joy learns that looks can be deceiving and even though Santos is a tough kid, he has a kind heart and a love of reading. He takes Joy under his wing and shows her how to acquire food and gets her asthma medicine when she needs it. May was the character who broke my heart. She's a product of the streets with a drug addict Mom who proves the point that many homeless kids feel living on the street is safer than at home. As a result, she's built a wall around herself using sarcasm as a means of protection.

Creed is the self appointed protector of the group. (He was also my favorite) He wasn't able to protect those he loved back home so he did was he thought was best and left. His dream is to be a musician and he plays on street corners and fills in at gigs when he can. He's kind and generous and doing what he needs to in order to provide for those around him. It's obvious that he cares for Joy or Triste, as she goes by on the street but he doesn't allow anything to happen between them. This frustrates her but he knows what Asher did to her and the last thing she needs is another guy trying to control her.

Joy and Creed grow closer the longer she spends on the street and she begins to realize that neither one of them can run away from their pasts forever. Eventually, you have to decide to stop struggling and face your life in order to become the person you were meant to be. When she does return home, she's forced to face the truth - about her family, Asher and why she left. She comes through her experience stronger and more aware of who she is and the she also learns what real love is. Real love isn't cruel or hurtful and it certainly doesn't leave scars. Real love is joy, pure joy.





Good Points
Cupala doesn't shy away from the tough issues like emotional abuse in teen relationships and teen homelessness but approaches them in ways that offer support and hope.
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2 reviews

Overall rating 
 
3.7
Plot 
 
3.5  (2)
Characters 
 
4.0  (2)
Writing Style 
 
3.5  (2)
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Don't Breathe a Word
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Don’t Breathe a Word is certainly something different when it comes to YA Contemporaries. First, the main character, Joy, suffers from an extreme case of asthma which had her in and out of hospitals when she was young, and now keeps her mother on high alert for the tiniest speck of dust. At the beginning of the book we find Joy chopping off her long locks, bleaching the rest almost white, and staging her bedroom as the site of a kidnapping. Her own kidnapping, as she’s leaving home to leave on the streets of Seattle. If that’s not different, I don’t know what is.

Of course there had to be a trigger that made Joy want to run away. That would be Asher, her older boyfriend. There’s hints at the beginning that he’s abusing her. Joy never out right says she’s being abused by him, but it’s in the way that she phrases things that involve him. But as the story moves forward we get to see what he’s been doing to her, and it’s disgusting.

Don’t Breathe a Word was definitely an interesting read. I had never read about homelessness before, so it was an eye opener. Joy, or Triste as she goes by on the street, started with somewhat of a plan, but soon enough she learns that you can’t really prepare yourself for living the streets. She’s left with absolutely no supplies except the inhaler in her pocket and her hidden cell phone, which she is determined not to use for help.

Then she finds Creed, a mysterious musician that she hopes can help her. He introduces her to his “squat mates” and they become a kind of family. Life on the street is not easy, especially for Joy/Triste with her asthma. She can be triggered at any moment and that could mean instant death for her, but she’s determined to survive and not return to her suffocating life. Thankfully she has the others to look out for her.

I couldn’t see where the end of Don’t Breathe a Word was going, but I do think it was a good one. Joy is not the same girl that she was before she ran away, and she’s stronger than she had been. She doesn’t feel the need to hide anymore, and she’s made some great changes in her little square of the world. Overall, I would definitely recommend this to all YA Contemporary fans.
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Don't Breathe a Word
Overall rating 
 
3.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0
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.
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