Review: Don’t Breathe a Word

Present Day:
Eva has never felt like she belonged… not in her own family or with her friends in New York City, and certainly not at a fancy boarding school like Hardwick Preparatory Academy. So when she is invited to join the Fives, an elite secret society, she jumps at the opportunity to finally be a part of something.

But what if the Fives are about more than just having the best parties and receiving special privileges from the school? What if they are also responsible for keeping some of Hardwick’s biggest secrets buried?

There is only one reason why Connie would volunteer to be one of the six students to participate in testing Hardwick’s nuclear fallout shelter: Craig Allenby. While the thought of nuclear war sends her into a panic, she can’t pass up the opportunity to spend four days locked in with the school’s golden boy. However, Connie and the other students quickly discover that there is more to this “test” than they previously thought. As they are forced to follow an escalating series of commands, Connie realizes that one wrong move could have dangerous consequences.

Separated by sixty years , Eva’s and Connie’s stories become inextricably intertwined as Eva unravels the mystery of how six students went into the fallout shelter all those years ago . . . but only five came out.

This book had me gripped right from the start with the mysterious conditions of Eva being invited to hang out with a few select students in the present-day and Connie learning about the bomb shelter experiment in 1962. From the premise, it was already determined that one of the six students in 1962 wouldn’t survive being in the shelter, but the question was who didn’t survive and how did they die? Then, of course, in Eva’s present-day story, it was a question of how this secret-society, The Fives, related to the past.

Both girls, though separated by decades, were pretty similar. They both wanted to fit in with the groups they were with and even when something felt off, they went with the group anyway… at least for a while. It was easy to sympathize with both of them for just wanting to fit in. Eva had been sent to boarding school unfairly – basically just an excuse for her mother and step-father to get her out of their house – and was at a school where everyone had known each other since 5th grade. It’s always rough in that type of situation. Meanwhile, Connie was an anxious girl, worrying about all the possibilities that could go wrong in a situation (and I’m basically like that, so I get it). In any case, I enjoyed both girls because even though they let themselves get lost in their respective groups for a while, they eventually get their heads on straight and work to make things right.

Right away in Eva’s story, the Fives have a cult-like feel to them and I was skeeved-out by them right way. I was rooting for Eva to see through them and the Dean of Students, and when she did, I knew she’d have to stay involved with them to be like a double-agent in order to uncover the truth about the 1962 Bomb Shelter mystery. Helping her with that mystery was Erik, a boy she met on the cross-country team, and he was just the sweetest thing alive in this story. I knew right from when he was introduced that I’d love him. Lastly for characters, I loved Luisa and I wish she’d had been in more of the story because she was pretty bad-ass, especially near the end. 

What I really loved about this book (as well as Taylor’s first novel) is how she ties the past and present together, and eventually has them meet up with one another. I was so happy when Eva met present-day Connie and Connie helped to fill in the true story about what happened for Eva. The book itself was very well written and I’m definitely a fan of the author’s style, and this dual-timeline thing she has going with her books. 

Overall, this was a great book that I could’ve easily read in one-sitting if my time worked out that way. If you love boarding school mysteries, or books where the past meets the present, then you’ll probably enjoy this book as well.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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