Review–Don’t Breathe A Word by Jennifer McMahon

Don’t Breathe a Word
by Jennifer McMahon
Summary: 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.

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Source: I bought a paperback


Don’t Breathe A Word was strange, creepy, and fascinating. It wasn’t like any other fairy story I have read because it wasn’t really about the fairies in the traditional sense. The book didn’t follow Lisa on her fairy adventure. Instead, it followed Lisa, her brother, and her cousin when they were kids, before her disappearance, and then it followed Phoebe and Lisa’s brother in the present.

The main question: What happened to Lisa?

The way the story followed the three children reminded me a lot of many Stephen King novels. I knew these kids were dabbling in the wrong sorts of things and I knew that their own relationships to each other were complicated. Sam didn’t believe Lisa and Evie, the cousin, was jealous. There were a lot of different dynamics going on and the whole King of the Fairies thing just added to it. I loved not knowing what actually happened.

In the present, the story was even more complicated. Phoebe had her own sort of strange experience with the King of Fairies during her messed up childhood. The weird clues about Lisa’s return had Sam and Phoebe revisiting the events of the summer of Lisa’s disappearance.

Honestly, Don’t Breathe A Word was creepy. I never get freaked out by anything and I had to turn the book upside down at night because the girl on the cover was so eerie. The notes from the Book of Fairies were so vague and strange. I was looking over my shoulder for shadows. It wasn’t a scary book. It wasn’t a horror novel. But there was something unnerving about it, besides the cover, that had me just a tad freaked out at times. I regretting reading this before bed a few times. It was just that perfect sort of slight creepiness that oozed out just enough to have me looking over my shoulder.

“Lisa smiled. 'You know how sometimes, you catch the faintest hint of movement in the corner of your eye, then you blink and it's gone? That's them.”

The best part of the novel was not knowing what happened throughout the novel. What happened to Lisa? Was it fairies? Was it something else? Everyone had secrets about that summer. Is this a story about a small town and the people who lived there or a story about fairies and magic? Or both?

I wish the novel was longer, somewhat better concluded, and I wish Phoebe would have told her side of the story. But at the same time, I liked the way it ended, the unopened doors, and the lingering questions. It goes along nicely with that whole unnerving feeling.

I highly recommend the book. I’m not sure why there are so many negative and middle of the road reviews. The only thing I can think of to explain the reviews is that the novel sits in between fantasy and reality, so those who wanted pure fantasy were disappointed and those who wanted pure reality were also disappointed. But those who enjoy the blurred line will really enjoy the book.