Review – Don’t Breathe a Word

Don’t Breathe a Word

By Jennifer McMahon

HarperCollins

ISBN: 978-0-06-168937-6

3.85 stars

I want to say this was a fantasy story but I’m held up by reality on this one.  Did I like this book?  Yes and no.  Yes, in that the story was well paced, full of twists, and slightly disturbing in a way that makes you keep reading because you must absolutely know what happens and are afraid to put the book down for fear of not finding out.  No, in that sometimes reality is too disturbing and you want to walk away and forget what you read and imagined and go back to a life happy without disturbing images in your head.

Lisa is an imaginative child so much so that she not only imagines but believes she has found the fairy king in the woods behind her house.  Woods full of strange tales, horror stories, and dilapidated stone homes.  When she goes missing, there’s more to the story of a girl and a fairy king and it’s so much more disturbing than anyone, especially her brother, may have wanted to imagine.  Her brother, now a man in his twenties happy in his life and relationship with his girlfriend, Phoebe, Sam would rather forget parts of his childhood and move on but it’s not meant to happen.  When a woman claiming to be his sister appears saying she’s returned from the land of the fairies, the simple life Sam and Phoebe have together is ruined.

Sometimes when you’re reading, especially a story about a young girl gone missing, you know it’s going to turn out badly and all that was at work was sad, despicable, human behavior.  But sometimes you also want to believe there is another fantasy world where she could have been taken and McMahon does a good job of making you really wonder about that.  Is it all an elaborate ruse to fool you and hide psychotic behavior?  Why can’t there be a happy ending here?  I can tell you, without ruining anything, there is no happy ending here and yes, at times you will find yourself repulsed by the characters behavior. You’ll be uncomfortable with the lies they yield and live.  You’ll be utterly disgusted and disturbed by what they do.  Sadly, it’s also compelling and I’ll admit I had a hard time reading and putting this book down.

That’s also what’s making me a little wishy-washy on this.  Did I not like it because it made me uncomfortable?  Well written books should do that to a certain extent.  But ultimately, I can’t say I loved it and I don’t honestly know if it was because of the subject matter.  Having a visceral reaction to something I read doesn’t mean it’s not good if my reaction was negative, does it?

Either way this book gets credit for holding me nearly hostage for several hours to finish it before my heart stopped pounding.  If nothing else, McMahon knows how to get hold of a reader.

Don’t Breathe a Word will be released May 2011.

I won this book as part of the Early Reviewers Program on LibraryThing.

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2 thoughts on “Review – Don’t Breathe a Word

  1. Interesting dichotomy there between your two reactions to the book. I’m of the opinion that a book should move you and make you think about things you wouldn’t normally think about, but I don’t think a book should give you a sort of literary PTSD after you’re done reading it.

    Also, I think it’s totally okay to not be happy with the subject matter of a book. If we can be unhappy with writing style, characters, and plot and have those things affect our enjoyment of a book (and whether we consider it a “good” or “bad” book), it should be okay to be unhappy with subject matter doing the same. Maybe if we were perfect book reviewer automaton that wouldn’t be cool, but this is a personal book blog and that sort of thing is okay in this sphere of, like, literary stuff.

    I hope that made sense. 😀

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