Don’t Breathe A Word by Holly Cupala Book Review

I’m pretty sure sophomore slump isn’t in Holly Cupala’s vocabulary, as her sophomore novel Don’t Breathe A Word hits it right out of the ball park. Don’t Breathe A Word simultaneously slayed me and uplifted me, much the same way as books by Courtney Summers and Lauren Oliver. I felt Cupala did a bang up job wrenching my heart with this incredibly emotional, moving story.

Don't Breathe A Word, Holly Cupala, Book Cover

Don't Breathe A Word by Holly Cupala

Joy Delamere can’t breathe. Literally. She has severe asthma. I didn’t actually know people still had asthma past the age of 12, but apparently it’s true. Joy as a character is incredibly passive. She’s on this strict medical regimen and always believed she needed people to care for her which is why she dates Asher, this mysterious guy who is very powerful and mysterious. Who, FYI, is so emotionally controlling and manipulative that the only way Joy feels she can leave him is by faking a kidnapping and running away to live on the streets of Seattle. It’s not easy, obviously or lots of rap songs wouldn’t exist, but the friends Joy makes teach her to survive and form a surrogate family.

I thought Cupala did a fantastic job portraying themes of power and control in a relationship within Don’t Breathe A Word. There’s a point where joy questions if it’s abuse because what Asher does is not physical. And I can’t help but want to shake Cupala’s hand for writing this scene because that is what abusers do. They make the victim think it’s their fault, that emotional abuse isn’t a big deal. They make it seem like since there’s no hitting it’s not as serious. But it can cause the same emotional scars and damage. Abuse is abuse no matter the form and I absolutely applaud Holly Cupala for illustrating this.

I just loved reading Joy’s journey from victim to survivor. I loved her ultimate transformation. I love that she retained this level of kindness. Normally Joy Delamere is the type of character who I hate, but readers, I loved her realism as an unsure girl who had her self-confidence verbally beaten out of her. She’s a character I love because she kind of represented hope, or at least that’s how I saw her. AND okay, so she sucks at living on the streets at first, but you guys she’s from the suburbs, and I’m pretty sure I would blow at being homeless too. But anyways, Joy has been through hell, but she’s managed to come back, which hello, perfect example of why we need these books on the shelves for teenagers, to show that they through can make it out of hell. #YASaves.

Okay, and I think I would do this review a real disservice if I didn’t mention Creed. And yes, I totally pictured Creed from The Office every time I read his name because I’m addicted to that show. Anyways, Creed is awesome and kind and good and a musician. He deeply cares for his street family and obviously he’s on the street because his past ain’t so hot. I guess I just really liked him as a character because he’s not a douche and came across as really self-assured.

If you are looking to have your heart shattered and patched together again, read Don’t Breathe A Word.

Disclosure: Received for review.

Other Reviews of Don’t Breathe A Word by Holly Cupala:

Ex Libris
Bookish Delights
Once Upon A Twilight
This Blonde Reads

Pre-Order Don’t Breathe A Word for ONLY $7.99 here. It releases January 3, 2012, but I’m reviewing it today because it’s Just Contemporary month and I read it already. /derail. The link will take you to Amazon where I’m totally an associate, just wanted to fully disclose that.


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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. A close friend of mine has severe asthma, unfortunately her kids do now too. I have to say I LoL’d about the rap songs. so true.

    I have seen this book around, but I didn’t really know what it was about. I was in an abusive relationship when I was in my twenty’s so I think I will really enjoy this book. And i will probably hate the memories it brings back. Great review.

  2. This books sounds pretty good.
    I’ve a couple of cousins who have asthma even though they are in their twenties now, I always thought it was one sucky illness.

    Anyway, the book sounds good and I think I would like to read it, not to mention that it has got a gorgeous cover.

    Thanks for the review.

  3. I would totally think of Creed from The Office as well even though he’s so creepy!

    Not sure I’m up for this book at this time-I’m looking for lighter fare-but maybe next year. I definitely want to try some of Cupala’s writing!

    • Yah, Creed is such a creeper hahaha.

      I think this actually comes out in 2012, but I had a windfall of space to review and then with Just Contemporary decided to post it now.

  4. Why does Asher the dude HAVE to be The Douche? *pouts*

    I love stories like these. YA contemporaries that have such meaning and importance you are so happy you read them. I live for this stuff.

    I’ll be reading THIS soon. Oh, April, why didn’t you post this BEFORE I went to the library?? :/

    – Asher (from Paranormal Indulgence)

  5. Asthma is some serious stuff. I didn’t know how serious until a friend of mine lost his mom to a severe asthma attack. : Scary. Anyway, this sounds like a good one with a lot of serious topics: homelessness, asthma, and verbal abuse. Plus you say you were slayed and uplifted. I’m interested.

  6. oh, i seriously WANT this book. LOVE the cover, the title, the synopsis and this review is the first i have read of it = <3

    x Nomes

  7. I almost LOVED this book. I think Cupala is a ridiculous brilliant writer and I will eagerly await whatever she writes next. And I completely and totally agree with everything that you said. But- I didn’t like the ending of the book. It was too neat, too pretty and too perfect. EVERYONE gets a happy ending and I feel like this does a disservice to the absolute power of the beginning and middle of the novel. Life DOESN’T come with a bow and bright colored paper and that’s what I felt this book gave us. It was a disappointment for me after how emotional and real the rest of the book was.