Title: Don’t Breathe a Word
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“On a soft summer night in Vermont, twelve-year-old Lisa went into the woods behind her house and never came out again. Before she disappeared, she told her little brother, Sam, about a door that led to a magical place where she would meet the King of the Fairies and become his queen.
Fifteen years later, Phoebe is in love with Sam, a practical, sensible man who doesn’t fear the dark and doesn’t have bad dreams—who, in fact, helps Phoebe ignore her own. But suddenly the couple is faced with a series of eerie, unexplained occurrences that challenge Sam’s hardheaded, realistic view of the world. As they question their reality, a terrible promise Sam made years ago is revealed—a promise that could destroy them all.”
Thoughts: Truly great stories keep the reader guessing until the very end and even long past a stunning reveal. Don’t Breathe a Word is a truly great story. The shifting narrative between past and present mirror the shifting realities as Phoebe and Sam try to make sense of the seemingly impossible while confronting their childhood nightmares. The reader is left to weed out the truth behind the fiction in a novel in which the truth is never fully revealed. Haunting and downright spooky, Don’t Breathe a Word is a fantastic, horrific thriller done right.
Phoebe’s perspective on Lisa’s disappearance lends a unique aspect on the events as they unfold. As a previous observer of Sam in his time of grief, she is not as clueless about Sam’s past as he might suspect. Her own haunting by the Dark Man lends an eerie, otherworldly element that is in direct contrast to Sam’s pragmatism. Yet, this is a novel in which nothing is as it seems, including the main characters.
Don’t Breathe a Word is the stuff of nightmares – childhood kidnappings, haunting by ghostly specters at night, fairies – yet the entire novel is devoid of the sensational. Rather, Ms. McMahon maintains a sense of realism throughout even the most spectacular of scenes. This not only creates a tremendous level of suspense, but it causes the reader to question his or her own understanding of reality.
Ms. McMahon has a mastery of language that allows her to create doubt in a reader’s mind while simultaneously providing a rational explanation of the story’s events. Her imagery is vivid, and the world she has created is as beautiful as it is dark and mysterious. All elements blend together to create a story that is very effective at capturing a reader’s interest and never letting go.
Don’t Breathe a Word is definitely a fast-paced thrill ride that scares as much as it delights. It is a novel that causes vivid dreams and restless nights – that is, when the reader can actually put it down long enough to fall asleep. Fans of the supernatural will be as impressed as fans of thrillers. It scares and delights any reader and is well worth any and all good press.
Thank you to LibraryThing’s Early Reader program for my review copy!