If there’s one thing I love more than a YA mystery set at a boarding school. It’s a secret society YA boarding school mystery!
Welcome to Hardwick Preparatory Academy. Where the rule book is an actual book, sixty-six pages no less. And long-term students are “lifers.” It’s 1962, and the Cold War has turned the US all hysteria and fallout shelters. Even Hardwick’s not immune to the paranoia and sends six students (one of them, Connie Abbott) to spend four days locked inside the school’s very own fallout shelter. Over the next four days, something goes terribly wrong, and the shelter gets wiped from Hardwick’s history. Now, nearly sixty years later, Eva Storm finds herself exiled to Hardwick (by parents who prefer their home aesthetic sans her). Call it luck, but it’s not long before Eva stumbles onto something…
A secret society. The Fives.
Like Fight Club, there are rules when it comes to the Fives. You don’t talk about the Fives. You don’t speak to other Fives unless at special events. But the Fives are worth all their strange internal rules and workings. Effortlessly cool, each member of the group of overachievers (Eva still doesn’t know how she landed the gig) has access to special privileges and is basically guaranteed admission to the college of their choice. Total score, if only Eva hadn’t mentioned talk of a fallout shelter. Things turn strange, and she can’t shake the feeling that not everything about the Fives is as cozy as it seems.
The pace is fast, the atmosphere dark academia, and the writing sharp and deft, the kind of excellence that wraps itself around and sweeps you away. The romance is a wonderful, luxurious slow-burn, and Taylor effortlessly builds her characters. Especially main character Eva, who is fierce and daring, yet can’t stop feeling unwanted. After all, her bio dad didn’t want her. Her stepdad made sure she knew he wasn’t her real dad when he married her mom (keeper, that one). And at Hardwick, she’s the lonely new kid until a bold stunt and a skinny dip off a cliff score her a place among the Fives. It’s easy to see how much she’s got to lose by stirring up the past. How many reasons she’s got for swallowing her unease and their dodgy booze. But neither Eva nor Connie are ones to conform. Told in dual timelines, the narrative turns along unexpected twists as the two strands of the mystery weave into one utterly satisfying finale.
Don’t Breathe a Word is going straight on my list of go-to recommendations. One of my new favorite YA suspense mysteries. Perfect for fans of Truly Devious and One of Us Is Lying.
Book: Don’t Breathe a Word
Published: Harper Teen
Publication Date: May 18th, 2021
Age Range: 13 – 18
Harper Teen kindly sent me a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.