Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Joy is suffocating--yes, both literally and figuratively. Her every move has been watched over by her well-meaning but overbearing parents thanks to her two run-ins with death. Whether it's her parents or her asthma, Joy can't catch a breath and is being smothered. That doesn't bode well for a teenager who's trying to figure out who she is.
Then there's Asher. Her boyfriend who's both the most controlling but comforting thing she has. On the outside, it seems that Joy has it good; a wealthy, good-looking boyfriend, caring parents, a family and a school to attend. But no one sees how badly Joy is suffocating and Joy can't seem to pry herself away from it all--especially Asher--until one night when things spiral out of control.
Fleeing home after a quick bleach and cut job with only a bag full of Cliff bars and an extra inhaler, Joy tries to fend for herself on the streets of Seattle. It's not easy--no surprises there. There are more than a few unscrupulous people who are lurking, waiting for a chance to strike the new girl and one of them very nearly succeeds until a boy named Creed defends her. Taking her in to live with him and his crew, Joy begins a new life among the homeless. They teach her how to survive, how to get food and how to avoid getting caught. Yet despite the squalor she lives in and the trash she has to pick through to find food, Joy feels like she can breathe for once in her life. Joy has learned more than how to survive from Creed and his bunch--she's begun to learn about loyalty and family. Finally free from the immediate crushing presence of her former life, she's begun to take the first steps towards self-discovery.
But what happens when her journey's threatened to be cut short? The inevitable search for her by Joy's parents were only a matter of time, but what will Joy do with her new-found knowledge of her self and the world around her?
Wow. First book to catch my eye in my intimidating pile of books to review and what a way to re-enter the world of YA blogging! Don't Breathe a Word was haunting, mesmerizing and held me captive from the first page to the last. I literally did not put this book down until I was done! I was pulled into Joy's story from the start; her stifling home environment, her terrifyingly dangerous but somehow still soothing boyfriend, and her journey towards self-discovery on the streets with Creed and the others who take her in are all masterfully presented by Ms. Cupala in this novel!
I especially loved the way Joy's story was told; fragments of her past are presented between what is happening presently. Joy's character was believable and Cupala manages to capture the fear, overwhelming need for escape, and eventual hope Joy feels to heart-wrenching effect. Creed and supporting characters were also well-developed with their own fears and passions, making the story that much stronger and captivating.
One point that I noticed (and liked) was that Asher was a verbally and mentally abusive (and controlling) boyfriend. Don't get me wrong; I don't like the fact that he was an abusive boyfriend, I'm just glad that Ms. Cupala decided to make him a verbally abusive boyfriend instead of a physically abusive one. An abusive relationship does not have to be just physical to be abusive--verbal abuse can be equally crushing, if not greater, as demonstrated in this novel. It was frightening to see how damaging a verbally abusive and controlling significant other could be to a person's self-worth and self-image. Joy had her self-esteem and her individualistic qualities stripped away from her until she did not know who she was anymore.
Told in a raw and gritty way, Ms. Cupala does not shy away from more touchy subjects including homelessness and abusive relationships in her newest novel. A gripping and wonderfully written novel, I'd recommend this novel to readers (though not those who might be faint of heart) when it hits bookstores next month!
Overall: 5 out of 5
Plot: 4 stars
Characters: 5 stars
Writing: 5 stars
Cover: 3.75 stars (love the font)