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Comment: This book has already been well loved by someone else and that love shows. It MIGHT have highlighting, underlining, be missing a dust jacket, or SLIGHT water damage, but over-all itâ€TMs still a good book at a great price! (if it is supposed to contain a CD or access code, that may be missing)
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Don't Breathe a Word Paperback – January 3, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

You have got to be desperate to stage your own kidnapping, but that is just what 16-year-old Joy does. To make matters even more precarious, she suffers from life-threatening asthma, which Cupala uses as a powerful metaphor for Joy’s figurative suffocation in the inescapable trap into which she has been drawn. The first-person narrative shuttles back and forth in time between Joy’s abuse at the hands of her boyfriend (the reader has to add up clues that Joy herself has trouble facing) and her life on the Seattle streets after she has fled from her abuser. Cupala’s depiction of what it takes to survive on the streets and the various perils that can ensnare runaways is vivid and fascinating. This novel recalls Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (1999) in its psychological astuteness about the many terrifying tendrils connected to teen sexual abuse, and it works just as well on a suspense level, too. Grades 10-12. --Connie Fletcher


“Don’t Breathe a Word is a gorgeously written, intense page-turner . . . This is a beautiful book.” (Courtney Summers, author of Some Girls Are and Cracked Up to Be)

“I dare you to set it down during its last hundred pages. I dare you.” (Deb Caletti, National Book Award nominee for Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, for Tell Me a Secret)

“A powerful story of self-discovery, and a brilliant debut novel.” (—Ellen Hopkins, New York Times bestselling author of the Crank trilogy)

“Cinematic.” (Publishers Weekly, for Tell Me a Secret)

“Holly Cupala’s debut novel will be immensely popular among teens. Teen fans will be captivated by the theme of owning your own path, the persistence of life and closure.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA), for Tell Me a Secret)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; Original edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061766690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061766695
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #301,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Holly Cupala wrote teen romance novels before she ever actually experienced teen romance. When she did, it became all about tragic poetry and slightly less tragic novels. When she isn't contributing readergirlz.com and writing, she spends time with her husband and daughter in Seattle, Washington. These days, her writing is less about tragedy and more about hope.

Part of the author's proceeds from this book will go toward helping sexually exploited girls around the globe. TELL ME A SECRET is her first novel. Learn more at http://www.hollycupala.com or visit her blog at http://brimstonesoup.blogspot.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
At a glance:

Don't Breathe a Word is an amazingly powerful and fantastically written book that shows you the harsh realities of abuse, teenage homelessness, and other tough issues, without being depressing or losing that sense of hope I long for when reading a book. It was heartbreaking, but it was also funny and exciting and romantic and beautiful. Even if you don't normally read contemporary, I think you will love this book.


I don't read a whole lot of contemporary. Especially books that tend to deal with issues, whether it's abuse, disorders, drugs, or the like. I just tend lean more toward fantasy, paranormal, or dystopia. But I did read Holly Cupala's Tell Me a Secret and really connected with it, so I was excited to read Don't Breathe a Word, to see what Holly would do this time. This book blew the roof off any contemporary I've ever read. I loved it!

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that Holly wrote it in such a way that you never felt hopeless. You could always see a light at the end of the tunnel. She also wrote in past and present, using flashbacks to reveal more and more about why Joy ran away, and the abuse and shame that she had to endure before leaving. There was a mystery element the book had that added to the appeal of the story, and the pacing was perfect.

I fell in love with each and every one of the characters. Ok, maybe not Asher.....ack! But the others, even when they were being total idiots, I just wanted to adopt them, and take care of them and tell them they are worth something. I loved Joy, and CREED!!! Especially Creed! I loved that even though he was a broken person, he still did all he could to protect the others.
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Format: Paperback
My little sister and I read vastly different literature. She sticks nearly solely to dark contemporary literature, while I like to stay with my fantasy and science-fiction. Every now and then, we flop and read something in the genre that the other loves - I usually do it unprompted, my sister upon my recommendation.

The moment I finished this book, I walked into her room, put it into her hands, and said, "Read this."

I liked this book a lot. Not enough to keep my copy and demand my sister get her own, but it is one of the best pieces of contemporary fiction that I've read in a very long time. Cupala manages to capture the emotion that teenagers experience when they're trapped in a situation that they can only see one way out of. From the first page, I pitied Joy - her weakness, her own entrapment, the birdcage she had set for herself. I hated Asher. I loved Neeta and how she kept trying to help Joy, even when Joy herself thought she was lost forever. I pitied May and how she kept getting sucked back into the same routine. I adored Creed and everything he stood for. And my love for Santos knows no bounds - though that may just be because he paralleled their lives to Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

[SPOILER ALERT] For all the superamazingness that is most of the novel, the ending, of course, is a bit unrealistic. All of the characters get some variation of a happy ending or a comeuppance. The optimist in me loves that, and the reviewer in me goes, "Hey, that shouldn't have happened!" But my optimist keeps winning on this one. [END SPOILER ALERT]

Given how often library books were brought into the story, I'd love to recommend the fictional Joy one - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. With all the problems she had breaking out of her birdcage, I think she'd understand Jane, and how she was "no bird; and no net ensnared [her]; [she] was a free human being with an independent will."
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Format: Paperback
This book is heart-wrenching and satisfying and frightening all at the same time. It is written from Joy's perspective and the story unfolds as her thoughts do, as she tries different ways of dealing with a horrible, controlling situation. I was furiously angry with the man who caused the problems in the first place: Asher, with his obsession for crows and his fascination for their hierarchy. He experiments with controlling an young girl and it's sickening.

I was heartbroken over the damage he inflicted on so many levels, but the most painful, I thought, was the sexual. She was drawn to him even as she hated him. He had woken her physically and that awakening was always there, exposed, between her and men around her. Even when she ran, this sensual tension could not go away.

The danger on the streets felt so real. It was so sad how the kids only had their bodies when everything else was stripped away. They lost possessions and shelter and were reduced to using their bodies to survive, and that is a stark reality that is hard to swallow. Horrible.

I loved the way Joy changed and grew. She was completely credible to me and her decisions made sense. I was frustrated with her family, all of them. Her parents didn't want to help or listen, not even at the very end. Her friend, Neeta, saw more, but could only help Joy as much as she would let her.
Creed is amazing and I loved all of Joy's street friends and who she became herself, Triste, to be able to see her situation more clearly and respond more truly. And I was ultimately overjoyed with her choices because she didn't have options.

I mean, this book really tugged at my heart as a Mom.
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