4 star, YA

ARC Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Jordyn Taylor

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.

**Don’t Breathe a Word comes out May 18, 2021**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

Don’t Breathe a Word is another successful story that combines dual POVs across different timelines that mesh together in a compelling read. In the present day, Eva finds herself sent off to a private boarding school literally last minute (thanks, mean family). Trying to fit into a crowd that has grown up together since the fifth grade is super tough. Enter a group who IS willing to take her under their wing. Little does she know, this group functions more like a secret society than a regular bunch of friends. The question is, are they harmless or are they hiding something more sinister?

And then we have the other timeline set in the ‘60s in the prime of the Cold War where America and Russia are in a stalemate for nuclear power. Not a particular piece of history I know too much about since this is really more American history, but I never really thought about what it must’ve been like for kids who grew up in that time. You just never know if your city would be wiped out by devastation. Or worse yet, have to face the consequence of radiation in the air.

Connie lived with such a fear, constantly. When the school, yes the same boarding school Eva is stuck at, decides to test out a nuclear fallout shelter (would this be like their version of our fire drill?), what should have been a simple overnight stay for some students turns out more sinister than expected. I loved this aspect of the story, following Connie as we piece together bit by bit what happened to this group of students. While it wasn’t the most unpredictable outcome – I kinda saw it from a mile away – it’s the thrill of getting to that final piece that still excites me.

Not to be outdone, the present day timeline is just as entertaining. This secret society calls themselves The Fives and they are SUPER weird. Thankfully our girl Eva does not buy into all of their stuff like everyone else seems to. I loved her as a protagonist because she was no-nonsense and street smart. I especially enjoyed her growing friendship and feelings for her fellow friend Erik who is the only other person she hangs with outside of The Fives. Erik brings to the table the link to the past events in Connie’s time and their search for the truth propelled me to go through the book even faster.

I have loved Jordyn’s writing since her debut with The Paper Girl of Paris. She’s a master in traversing time and intertwining stories across the ages. While this book was still exciting in its own way, I felt it was a lot more predictable and the ending less climactic than expected. The pacing overall was good but maybe I had just wanted a little bit more, you know? It’s the only thing that lessened this rating but it was still a superb read. With truths unveiled, secret societies to join and flashbacks into a nuclear past, this book definitely offers a thrilling time.

Overall Recommendation:

Don’t Breathe a Word combines 1960s nuclear history with a present day trek into secret societies at a boarding school, a place that perhaps contains more than its fair share of secrets. In a similar fashion to her debut, Jordyn Taylor crafted a story that seamlessly switches between POVs as we follow Connie in the ‘60s and Eva in our present day, solving a mystery that the school has hidden all these years that occurred in a fallout shelter. Fast-paced with fairly short chapters, I couldn’t flip through fast enough to unveil all that occurred in the past alongside Eva. I had wished the ending was a little more dramatic and unpredictable, but all in all, this was a great story to dive into for a few hours.


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