Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala
Joy is suffocating…from asthma, from her family, and from her boyfriend, Asher. Her parents are too overprotective and Asher is way too possessive. Then Asher takes his abusive, domineering ways too far. Knowing she has to make sure her family is safe, she changes her appearance and her name, fakes her own kidnapping, and heads for the streets of Seattle where Creed, a homeless kid, had once offered her help.
As Triste, she quickly realizes how cruel street life can be, but knows that no matter what happens she cannot risk going home. She is fortunate that she is able to find Creed, and soon becomes part of his street family, which includes two others, Santos and May. These teens watch each other’s backs and take care of one another while keeping their own secrets. As Triste adapts to her new life, she begins to open up to her “family” and slowly begins to heal from the emotional (and physical) wounds Asher inflicted upon her.
Joy/Triste is such a brutally honest and open narrator throughout the book, yet the reason she ran from home is presented in a way that seems very secretive and shameful. It’s obvious it’s because of Asher, but the details are revealed little by little. I both hated and loved her flashbacks to what happened with Asher, and how he so easily manipulated her and tore her down piece by shattering piece. He verbally cut into her at every opportunity, and inflicted such deep emotional wounds that my heart just broke for her.
The homeless teens Triste joins were each amazing characters as well. Creed is a charming guy who seems to be the group leader and protector. He watches out for everyone and makes sure they are okay. Then there is May, who acts rough, but you can tell by her actions with her “family” she has a huge heart. Her story is very shocking and sad. Santos is charismatic and funny, but also has his own dark past. I eventually got to the point where I worried about each character and what was happening to them, hoping they would make it through each night, one night at a time.
Overall, I would say Don’t Breathe a Word is a captivating story. It’s gritty, powerful, and dark, yet shines a ray of hope at the same time. It’s chilling and thought provoking, and a story that needed to be told. It’s so compelling and honest that I was speechless by the end of the last chapter. It shows you what can happen when someone is pushed too far and is forced to do the unthinkable just to survive, and what can happen if you give yourself hope.