Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon

13 Jul

Don't Breathe a WordMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Summary via

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.

Certainly, the characters were interesting, even compelling.  They were complex, and just when you thought you understood where they were coming from, the world would shift.  This was mostly true of the secondary characters, but it was true of the primary ones as well, although in a more subtle way.  This was a story where the past mattered, regardless of how much the characters thought they’d left it behind.

The story was full of twists and turns, and they often didn’t make sense at the time, although the story held together in the end.  Some questions remain, but what would be the fun if they didn’t…

This is a book where the reader is supposed to be uncertain whether there is something supernatural happening, whether there are bad guys trying to make it look that way, or (just maybe) mental illness is making a fairly normal situation seem completely bizarre.

The problem is that for most of the book, I didn’t buy any of these explanations. I think this was a deliberate choice of the author, creating a situation that didn’t make sense however you looked at it, and throwing in more events that almost (but not quite) fit one explanation or another.

Oh sure, there was more than enough craziness going around, but something more clearly had happened. The possible world of fairies and magic was murky (again, I think deliberately), but there was no clear motivation for someone the be manipulating the situation.

In McMahon’s Dismantled, I loved the ambiguity, and I bought (with reservations) both possibilities. I’d hoped for the same here.

I have to say that the book pulled in together in the end, so maybe the fault was in my imagination along the way.

I requested access to this book via NetGalley so that I could review it.  Thank you to Harper Collins for giving me access.

For other views of this book, check out these blogs (most of them loved it!):


Posted by on July 13, 2011 in books, reviews


Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses to “Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon

  1. Ann

    July 13, 2011 at 11:49 am

    I stopped by your blog today.

  2. christa @ mental foodie

    July 15, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I haven’t reviewed this yet – I thought the book was going fine until the last page – didn’t like the ending!

    • Laura

      July 15, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      I’ve seen a couple of other reviews that said the same thing– I actually really liked that little bit at the end :-). I can see why people would feel otherwise, though!

    • kaymun

      November 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      i also didnt like the ending


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