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Step Up To The Streets

Forever Young Adult Presents: A Review of Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Step Up To The Streets

BOOK REPORT for Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Cover Story: Vaguely Threatening Shampoo Commercial
BFF Charm: Nay
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Lifetime Original Movie
Bonus Factor: Seattle
Anti-bonus Factor: Being Homeless
Relationship Status: I Would Give This Book My Spare Change

Cover Story: Vaguely Threatening Shampoo Commercial

Look! This shampoo will make your hair silky and sparkly! But if you tell anyone about it, this gritty font indicates that something bad might happen to you! P.S. I think the artist/stock photo selector missed the part on the FIRST PAGE OF THE BOOK when the main character chops all of her hair off.

The Deal:

Hey everybody, Debbie Downer here to give you the 411 on Joy Delamere. See, Joy has suffered from severe asthma her entire life, and she's almost died twice. Needless to say, her family is convinced that she must be monitored at all times, and when her older caretaker brother heads to college, he's quickly replaced by new boyfriend Asher, a complete sociopath who wants to control Joy's every move. Since Asher got Joy's unemployed dad a job at his father's company, Joy fears the repercussions of a break-up, so instead she decides to run away from home and live on the streets of Seattle. She seeks out Creed, a boy who once promised to help her, and moves into a squat with him and his homeless besties: Santos, a wise-cracking dude who disappears every night, and May, a bitch with an eating disorder. Released from the cage made by her family and Asher, Joy quickly discovers that the freedom of the streets comes with a high price.

BFF Charm: Nay

Look, I've never been faced with crippling health problems or a suffocating family or a totally evil boyfriend. I'm sure it's no cakewalk. In fact, I definitely feel sorry for Joy, and I understand that she's trying to protect her family and empower herself. I also understand that because I've (thankfully) never been the victim of domestic violence, I can't grasp the difficulty of ending that kind of relationship or telling someone who can help about it. Consequently, that made it hard for me to connect with Joy. Sure, I wanted to help her, but I also wanted to tell her that there are other options out there, and none of them require being homeless. Maybe it's because I'm 32, but I couldn't get over how naive Joy was, in spite of having dealt with so much pain in her young life. And, even more than that, I found her personality rather... boring. I KNOW, I KNOW, I'M A BAD PERSON.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

First of all, Asher's creepiness doomed this rating to a negative number because UGH. The dude is a manipulative, one dimensional freakshow, and I had a hard time understanding why Joy fell for him in the first place. I mean, sure, he's rich, but he also has a v. bright future as a serial killer. Of course, if Creed had been super hot, maybe he could have brought the score back to the positive side of the number line. But Cupala made that impossible when she DECIDED TO NAME HIM CREED. Because, when I think of Creed, two images come to mind:

Do those images spell sexy for you? Yeah, ME NEITHER.

So that's the first problem. The second problem is that Creed is a soulful, tortured musician who plays his guitar on the street for money, which I understand totally appeals to teenage girls but just sounds super annoying to me. Probably because I've heard way too many "musicians" practicing their "art" when I'm walking to a bar downtown. And also because, again, I'M A BAD PERSON. But I did up the score from negativeland to zero to give Creed credit for being super sweet and caring to Joy, who really, really needs it.

Talky Talk: Lifetime Original Movie

While I felt that Cupala's treatment of issues like domestic violence and homeless was v. serious, her style didn't carry the same weight. There was too much drama and not enough nuance. The characters lacked depth, and the pages were packed with cliches. As Lifetime has proven, this doesn't stop a story from being entertaining, but I guess I was hoping for more raw authenticity and less lines like this one:

This boy, whoever he was, made me feel vulnerable in an entirely different way. If he had street power, it was music. It spoke to my soul.

On the upside, if Lifetime cast Mandy Moore as Joy, I WOULD TOTALLY WATCH THIS MOVIE.

Bonus Factor: Seattle

I've never been to Seattle, and even though I'd prefer to experience it as a tourist rather than a homeless person, it was still fun to read about the Emerald City through Joy's eyes.

Anti-bonus Factor: Being Homeless

You guys, I think we can all agree that being homeless blows. And while I've been fascinated by some accounts of life on the streets (or under it), I was just... really freaked out and grossed out by Joy's experience. I know that's kind of the point, but I can't read about dumpster diving for food and pretend like I enjoyed it because I AM A HUGE GERMAPHOBE. Don't even get me started on the bathroom in the squat because there's not enough anti-bacterial gel in the world to scrub that image out of my brain.

Casting Call:

Dakota Fanning as Joy

If anyone can add depth to a character, it's our girl Dakota.

Thomas McDonell as Creed

And I think Thomas might be hot enough to overcome a name like Creed.

Relationship Status: I Would Give This Book My Spare Change

When I saw this book panhandling on the street, it was tough to look away. It was obvious that this book had some serious issues, and it made me feel extremely fortunate to have a job, a roof over my head and people who love me. I wish I could say that I reached out to the book and invited it home with me, but we didn't have that kind of connection. Still, I think other people might benefit from its message, so I gave it a few coins and wished it well.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Harper Teen. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Don't Breathe A Word is available now.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).