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Don't Breathe a Word

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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.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published May 18, 2021

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About the author

Jordyn Taylor

6 books183 followers
Jordyn Taylor is a New York City–based writer and journalist, currently the deputy editor at Men’s Health magazine; her work has appeared in the New York Observer, Mic, and Glamour.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 210 reviews
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,485 reviews189 followers
May 22, 2021
3.5 Stars

Well that really was an engaging little YA mystery!

I enjoyed both POVs, however Connie's story line was more intriguing and actually got quite chilling. I love secret society stories in elite schools and whilst I would like to have seen it get a bit darker, it was still an interesting, slightly predictable, YA mystery.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,371 reviews1,834 followers
June 23, 2021
This was an interesting dual-timeline story, that later connects, of an event in the past that is the catalyst for the creation of a secret society at a boarding school. It mashes up Cold War paranoia with present day priviledge and the new girl at said school who is brought into the society and uncovers the crime at the heart of the organization.

I found this an easy read and enjoyed it when I didn't think too hard about the unlikeliness of the whole thing enduring through the decades. Also the fact that no one had uncovered anything in the decades since? Like with most stories, suspend some disbelief and you'll have a good time.

At it's heart, however, is a good message for teens -- and those of us non-teens who sometimes forget -- that people worth your time, be them friends or family or peers, won't demand sacrifice or secrets or for you to bury your discomfort just to be in their presence. Friendship, love, respect.. these are not conditional.

While this wasn't perhaps all that surprising or original, except for the circumstances taking place during the historical timeline, if you like secret societies, boarding school settings, and mysteries for YA protagonists to unravel, you should give this one a go.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
Profile Image for PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps .
2,284 reviews217 followers
May 19, 2021
A YA contemporary set in a boarding? Automatic preorder.

Though I’m closer in age to narrator Connie, the part of the story set in 1962 than Eva, the narrator for the story set in 2021, I thoroughly enjoyed DON’T BREATHE A WORD from start to finish.

In many ways, Eva and Connie are similar, both followers, eager to fit in and go along with the crowd even when the voice inside them tells them it’s wrong. Neither is a profile in courage, in the beginning.

Jordyn Taylor brilliantly wrote 1962 accurately, from first names, to teenage slang. Born in 1964, I’m a few years too young to remember hiding under desks for nuclear war drills but that and McCarthyism was recent history. I constantly wanted Connie to make better choices.

Eva’s in her first year of boarding school, sent away because her mother and stepfather never really wanted her and they didn’t tolerate her typical teenage behavior. I understood why Eva wanted to be part of the secret society, even when she knew it was a bad fit.

DON’T BREATHE A WORD is fast paced, alternating between Connie’s and Eva’s points of view. I enjoyed every minute of the story, though not a typical mystery of thriller, I was very much invested in how the story played out.

DON’T BREATHE A WORD is a must read for anyone who loves boarding schools and secret societies.
Profile Image for Chloe Reads Books.
757 reviews303 followers
May 9, 2021
I really, really enjoyed this book! I ate it all up in one evening and had a great timing doing so. I really enjoyed the two POVs in this story, and loved the way the author linked them together. The setting was very intriguing, and the secret society element wasn't overdone which made it much more enjoyable. Surprisingly for me, I also enjoyed the fact it wasn't romance-heavy. To be very picky, it was a little bit predictable, and could've been a teeny bit longer and more detailed?
Profile Image for Jaksen.
1,305 reviews57 followers
July 25, 2021
Need to add, I won this book from Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you, Goodreads!

Couldn't get more than one-fourth of the way in, and I tried twice.

Story of a girl anxious to join an elite club at a boarding school. I found the situation rather trite, sorry to say, but my real criticism was of the time period. The girls in the two eras shown in the book - 1962 and the current era - didn't read 'real' to me. How do I know? Seriously, it just felt off and some of the attitudes/expressions voiced by the 1962 girls were artificial. IMO. (Other opinions may vary, of course!) I was only a child in 1962 but I had a teenage sister who was one of the most popular girls in her class. Seriously, she still is. Tons of friends, always partying, tying up the phone for hours. Boys, girls, older friends, younger, she was IT. (She bought one of the first Ford Mustangs for sale!) And so I know how teenagers spoke, moved, acted and reacted and what was important in their world, esp. in the early to mid-1960's.

As for the current era, yeah, I'm out of a tune a bit, but I taught young teenagers for 36 years and so...

I tried. The writing itself was very good: transitions, narration, setting, etc.

But no rating. DNF
Profile Image for Hayden (bookish.hayden).
530 reviews125 followers
May 21, 2021
Set in two different time periods, Don't Breathe a Word tells two heart racing tales that collide in an incredible way. In the present day we have Eva, a new student at Hardwick Preparatory Academy who desperately wants to make friends. When she's invited to join an elite secret society, she jumps at the opportunity to be a part of something. But the Fives aren't what she expected, and secrets start bubbling up.

In 1962 we have Connie, who is terrified by the threat of nuclear war. When presented with the opportunity of spending four days in the schools new fallout shelter, she's skeptical until she hears her crush will be going. But the bunker is not at all what she expected, and Connie quickly realizes that one wrong move could have dangerous consequences.

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.

CW: mentions of homophobia, alcohol consumption, claustrophobia, death, cult like activity, hazing, bullying.

Eva is our present day character and I really enjoyed reading from her. I found her very relatable and interesting. Her home life sucks, and all she wants is to find friends. When she's invited to join a secret society she latches onto that friendship. Alongside that she joins the cross-country team and meets Erik, who is a sweet bi boy whom we love. Erik introduces Eva to the fall-out shelter and that's when the mystery begins. It's fun to watch read along as they figure things out, and I really enjoyed Eva overall.

Alongside Eva we have all of the shitty people from the Fives, Erik and the rest of the cross-country team which includes a few homophobic dudes who are dead to me, and a sweet group of Dungeons and Dragons playing baby geeks.

Connie is an interesting character, and very much felt like an accurate representation of the time period that she's from. She's more of a follower than a leader, and relies on her friend Betty a lot. With the threat of nuclear war looming over her head, Connie is nervous and easily coerced into the bunker. Once in the bunker it was really intriguing to follow her and see what happened, and though she doesn't have a big personality I really loved seeing her gain her voice over the course of the novel.

In the bunker with Connie we have her best friend Betty who low key sucks, Bobby who was kind of unmemorable, Craig who also sucked, Steve who was straight up the worst, and sweet Helen who did not want to be there. There's also her teacher, Andy Kraus, who set the whole thing up and is also literally the worst. Everyone was incredibly well written, with distinctive personalities and traits.

The setting of this book is primarily at Hardwick Preparatory Academy, in the bunker for most of Connie's story, and around the school for Eva's. It's a very lovely academia setting, easily imaginable in my mind.

There are two plots in this book: Connie's which details what happens in the bunker, and Eva in the future trying to figure out what happened in the bunker and being recruited into a cult. These stories are perfectly woven together in a way that makes it so you just can't put the book down. There's some incredible sleuthing from Eva and Erik, offset by the very unsettling events happening within the bunker.

The ending of this book brings to the two storylines together in a very fun and well done way. I really enjoyed seeing Eva and Connie's stories cross over, and enjoyed the way that this novel ended.

This story is expertly written, the two story lines are woven together so perfectly that you just keep flipping the page because everything ends on a giant cliffhanger. I think that this book had a really strong mystery, and very well done secondary plot lines as well. There is light romance done in a very gradual way, which I prefer over insta love.

Overall I think that this book is incredible. It was impossible to put down, with realistic and interesting characters, and a wildly fun heart racing plot. If you love books like Truly Devious, One of Us is Lying or A Study in Charlotte, definitely check this one out!

My reviews up after release date, but thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me an ARC!
Profile Image for Shannon (It Starts At Midnight).
1,115 reviews1,010 followers
May 18, 2021
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight


Much like the author's debut, Don't Breathe a Word is told in dual perspectives from two different time periods. In this novel, we first meet Eva, who is feeling pretty lost in her current situation. She feels like an outcast in her new school, but she felt like one before, too. In the past time period, we meet Connie, who attends the same boarding school, only sixty years earlier.

I really loved both women's stories, frankly! They are connected by a mystery, one that unravels in Connie's time, but that Eva is trying to get to the bottom of. There are some things happening at the school that simply aren't sitting well with Eva, and I loved that she was willing to investigate, even if the cost could come to her personal happiness. Much of what Eva uncovers leads us to Connie's story, which took place during the Cold War, amidst some pretty serious paranoia.

I'm going to keep this very vague because it is, after all, about uncovering a decades long mystery! But I love how both women had to make some very serious, often uncomfortable decisions, and then had to deal with the fallout from said decisions. It was incredibly thought provoking, and I loved seeing how the stories came to connect so perfectly!

Bottom Line: An incredibly strong sophomore offering, Don't Breathe a Word pulled me in to both the mysterious circumstances and incredible characters from the start.
Profile Image for Ellie.
36 reviews
February 5, 2022
An enjoyable book with one or two standout characters. The rest were ho hum, and by ho hum, I mean very 'typical private school privileged kids,' and unfortunately that meant there was not much character development for these characters beyond that. That's of no fault of the author though, as the character development of the side characters wasn't exactly pivotal to the plot of the story.

The book did well in developing the characters that the story DID focus on. While I felt the premise of the book was a little far-fetched at times, I've also never been in a secret society, nor had the threat of a nuclear war looming over me. That said, I found the reactions of the teenagers in both POV's to be fairly realistic. It's difficult to know what we're capable of when we're put in a certain situation; this is why I think I preferred Connie's story a little more than that of Eva's. They were both trying to right wrongs, and stand up against the crowd.

I was a little let down by the ending; while satisfying, I found it a little rushed, especially given the book was not short.
Profile Image for Dani (Current Chapter).
220 reviews200 followers
June 3, 2021
More people should be reading this book, it was such a mysterious, intriguing, immersive and entertaining book!!
As it usually happens with YA thrillers, I wanted it to be a little bit more intense.
But I loved the secret society and the whole psychological experiment aspect and thought the teenagers' reactions to the whole situation was very believable (the adults not so much, maybe, but it didn't bother me).
Profile Image for Jenni.
533 reviews18 followers
December 10, 2020
A mystery, set in two different time periods: today and 1962. Back in 1962, Hardwick Preparatory Academy builds a fallout shelter after all of the cold war scares. Six kids are selected to spend a few days in the shelter to "test it out" but something goes terribly wrong. The shelter isn't spoken of after that. Modern day Eva and the other students at the academy don't even know about the shelter when the story begins. But what happened down there? And why has it been such a secret for almost 60 years? It was fun to see how the modern day Eva works to solve a case that happened in 1962 at her elite boarding school. Fans of Truly Devious will appreciate this story.
Profile Image for Stacey-Lea.
178 reviews19 followers
April 12, 2021
3.5 stars

Don’t Breathe a Word has all the right elements; boarding school setting, dual time lines/perspectives with a mysterious event unfolding in the past that they’re trying to solve in the present, and a secret society with dark undertones. It was really checking all the boxes for me on paper but didn’t quite grip me as much as I had hoped.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a fun and interesting read, but the pacing is just a little too slow for me. It took until about half way for the mystery element to really come into play and for the secret society to take form. There’s a lot of set up, which can be great, but without anything behind it felt a little slow going.

I did find an aspect of the older timeline fascinating though as it was set during the cold war period during 1950s/60s in the USA. This was a really interesting look into the atomic bomb paranoia that swept many people up and how gave voice to how it must have felt to have this threat looming over the country. I haven’t read much set in this era so it was a really refreshing take.

I fear I had higher expectations for this as it sounded reminiscent of my favourite YA mystery series Truly Devious, which had me holding Don’t Breath a Word to a pretty high standard. But I promise it still a solid read in its own right!
Profile Image for Sam (she_who_reads_).
621 reviews15 followers
November 10, 2021
I went into this knowing absolutely nothing about it and it was such a pleasant surprise!
The past storyline was definitely the most interesting, and I thought the way it was interwoven with the present day was done so well. I was hooked almost immediately, and just really enjoyed the entire ride.
Would absolutely recommend this one to just about any reader- but particularly anyone who enjoys mysteries that have multiple time lines
April 14, 2022
i liked this one! its not a favourite but its good. i feel like it would have been written better if the story had been told strictly from one POV but this was nice. the ending was wrapped up well and connie was a badass going off like that for that i love her. you should definitely read this if you have the time. i think it would be very easy to read in one sitting
Profile Image for Jenn Neely.
181 reviews3 followers
June 27, 2022
A YA mystery with history, a boarding school, the Cold War, a fall-out shelter, and a psychological experiment. This was a page-turner and I enjoyed every minute of this book! 
Profile Image for Cassandra Smith.
30 reviews
January 11, 2022
THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD it was just such a easy read not to heavy and depressing and not too cringe and cheesy
Profile Image for helena ✧.
143 reviews59 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
November 7, 2022
dnf @ 20%

𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐢 𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬

✧ DNF below 50% will not be rated ✧
Profile Image for Amanda Cresse.
350 reviews47 followers
March 2, 2021
4.5 stars

Taking place between two time periods at the same institution and told by two students who are questioning the authority, Don't Breathe A Word had my attention from the first chapter. I don't know much about the decade of my parents' childhoods; I have heard bits and pieces about the Cold War paranoia and, of course, have seen the signage for old bomb shelters that were built for this period in our history... yet, I hadn't given much thought to the corruption this fear would give way to.
The allusion of a secret society's "Order, Unity, & Power" quickly lead to hazing and McCarthy-like spies among the students at Hardwick Prep Academy-- something that began in the 1960s (Connie's story) and continues today (Eva's story).
The secrets, mystery, and rebellion kept me turning the pages.
A recommended purchase for 7th grade and up.
Profile Image for Katie.
41 reviews
May 10, 2021
Review Copy – This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Don't Breathe a Word is an immersive thriller told from the points of view of two girls set sixty years apart. It's a standalone that takes elements of dark academia and The Cold War and brings them together in a strong and enjoyable plot.

What I liked most about Don't Breathe a Word was the characters. Connie and Eva are well rounded, fully fleshed out individuals and it was easy to see how they were developing on the page. One of the best aspects of Connie and Eva is how relatable they are, particularly with the longing for friendship and the desire to belong to something - which I think is particularly poignant after so much time spent away from friends and loved ones after the pandemic.

One of the strongest elements of Don't Breathe a Word is the Cold War plot from Connie's point of view. I thought that Taylor's ability to utilise the paranoia and fear that swept up so many people in the 1960s was excellent. It was a fascinating and refreshing take on the thriller genre. I think that the way the characters started to suspect and turn on each other, was brilliant and gave the book a Lord of the Flies feel, which I haven't seen much of before and enjoyed.

Unfortunately, there were some aspects that for me felt a little lacklustre. The Fives, in particular, who at the beginning were intriguing and mysterious, were almost forgotten about at the end. I think I would have enjoyed more time spent with the Fives and getting to understand the dynamics of the group further.

The fact that the mystery element of the book was wrapped up 100 pages or so before the end of the novel left me feeling slightly anti-climatic. I had expected a second twist or something equally as dramatic to happen, but as that didn't happen, I felt the ending fell a little flat. I also think that dropping Connie's point of view as soon as the mystery was revealed didn't help the flatness of the ending and so I feel the pacing of the book was severely impacted.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Don't Breathe a Word. It was a fun and interesting read with a compelling concept. I would recommend this if you're looking to start reading books with dark academic elements or if your looking for a thriller with a satisfying ending.

Many thanks to HarperTeen for sending me an ARC for review.

Profile Image for Alicia.
521 reviews8 followers
October 18, 2022
This was such a great read! I really liked how the dual timelines worked together to present a mystery and then to see it be resolved. I also liked how the characters from the past timeline came into the present and were still major characters.
In the present timeline we follow Eva who has been sent to Hardwick by her parents. Eva is struggling to make friends, so when she gets recruited by secret society the Fives, she’s desperate for their approval. Eva’s willingness to go along with things in return for being wanted and liked is kind of chilling at times. I liked when she realized that things weren’t as rosy as they seemed. I really liked her relationship with Erik and how they were searching for the fallout shelter.
In the past timeline we follow Connie who is quite anxious and nervous about potential nuclear war. Connie’s anxieties came across really well, and I felt for her character. When a teacher at Hardwick presents an experiment for 6 students to spend 4 days in the fallout shelter, Connie signs up with her best friend Betty. Only things in the shelter aren’t what Connie expected, and the experiment is pretty chilling. The way the author wrote the characters was really well down, and the way that they were buying into the ideas was kind of terrifying.
I thought the writing style was super easy to follow. Both Eva and Connie were relatable and realistic characters, and I wanted to see them uncover the truth and get justice. The plot moved along at a good pace, and while it might have been a bit slow at times I felt like it worked really well to show the manipulations being felt by the characters.
Profile Image for jess :).
101 reviews30 followers
May 11, 2021
Thank you so much to Harper360 for sending me a copy of this!

Don’t Breathe a Word follows two girls, Eva and Connie, separated by 60 years as they navigate their way through a secret society- one of which joins and the other a founding member.
I really enjoyed this and despite some of it being predictable, I was still thoroughly invested and intrigued to see how the events would pan out.
It took a little while for the main characters to become likable to me, they started off as being naïve and following others- definitely ‘sheep’. I understand that was the intention so I enjoyed the development they had even more.
The dual perspective worked very well and I like that their stories eventually merged! I appreciate the ending but I didn’t necessarily find it entirely fair.
I also really like how despite the plot of Eva’s story is her finding the shelter and what happened, she also made some good friends and had a realistic teenage development with the boy she liked!
I definitely recommend this! Main points to hook you in: dark academia vibes, boarding school, dark secret covered up for 60 years, intertwining perspectives, one perspective set during the cold war!
Profile Image for ♡Shar♡.
82 reviews
May 19, 2022
"Order. Unity. Power."

McCarthyism at its finest 👍. The beginning kind of lost me but the story really picked up once everything was established. I would've appreciated if the story had a bit more "WTF that's so screwed up" factor (idk, im just edgy like that 🤪) but overall it was pretty great. I especially loved it because I had recently read 1984 and the way the characters had some dictatorshipness going on in the bunker really emphasized the horror of our potential society. Although it may seem that way, this book has more to it than it may display (based on its description).

Overall, the ideas were great and it was quite engaging near the end but the beginning needs a little sprucing up and a bit more horror, fear stuff to really scare people with human nature. *shiver* The ending. Very badass, I must say.

The ending line kind of gave "fitting in with the crowd" vibes which didnt quite make sense because of the basis of the book but y'know, maybe I missed something.
Profile Image for Marcella.
341 reviews7 followers
May 20, 2021
Secret society. Buried history. Dark Academia setting. Needless to say, I'm sold.
And I love this book! The setting is immersive I can see myself walking in Hardwick as student, wearing blazers and hang out with friends while withholding terrible secrets.
The dual POV is nice and we can feel different atmosphere from different time settings. We can also see a lot of teenage problem : peer pressure, the need to impress, unsupportive parents, not so healthy crush, etc etc.
Overall, I like this book. Nice characters and settings and it gave me chills at times. Yes, it is a bit predictable but enjoyable read nevertheless. Not focused on sappy romance is also a nice point!
Profile Image for Ninna.
317 reviews22 followers
June 9, 2021
This was a pretty entertaining read - a solid 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. This is a dual timeline storyline but is pretty easy to keep straight regarding the characters and actions which isn't always true when a story time jumps. The stories parallel each other in a lot of ways and, of course, they come together in the end. The characters and relationships change and grow as the mystery unfolds and it kept me interested throughout but what I found most interesting was the concept of "groupthink." The author uses both modern day school setting and cold war era red scare mentality to expand upon the concept. It shows how close we always are to giving up ourselves to authority and I think that's an important commentary for today's society and gave it the bump up to 4 stars.
Profile Image for Joi.
640 reviews33 followers
July 18, 2021
This book was so good. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. It alternates points of view and time periods. One main character is Eva, who is in present day. The other main character is Connie who was around during the 50s and 60s. This book is about a boarding school that has a secret society. During the 50s and 60s one of the teachers comes up with a social experiment that ends badly. During present day, the society is afforded privileges that no other student gets. Eva is tapped to become a member but she notices some things that aren't right and is destined to bring the group down.
Profile Image for Alanna King.
282 reviews20 followers
July 4, 2021
I really enjoyed this book! The pace was fine at the beginning, but when Erik entered Eva's story, I couldn't put it down. It reads like a grown-up Trixie Belden -- sneaking around a private school, having teen morals tested in two generations, secret societies, politics and bomb shelters...what's not to like? I like Eva's back story trying to find some confidence and finds The Fives, the cross-country team, Erik and the quest for justice. I would highly recommend this to any high school student.
Profile Image for Nuzhat.
228 reviews6 followers
August 14, 2021
This book was….fine. The premise is honestly five times cooler than the actual execution of it was. The secret society played a smaller part than anticipated and the flashback to the 60s provided a cool murder plot that eventually was resolved in a pretty juvenile and cliche way. Overall pretty routine and predictable.

A fast read, but pretty mediocre even by YA standards.
3 reviews
August 25, 2021
I enjoyed this a lot for a YA novel. Depicts what it’s like to grow up, and make friends all while uncovering a mysterious truth. My only complaint was the ending. It was very anti-climatic in my opinion.
Profile Image for ✨Veruca✨.
270 reviews5 followers
December 8, 2021
Plot twist after plot twist kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire book. Wasn’t a big fan of the characters(except for Luisa) but the plot definitely stayed interesting. If you like plot twists, conspiracies and secret societies, read this book!
Profile Image for kiwi.
5 reviews10 followers
February 9, 2022
I was pleasantly surprised when I read this book. It exceeded my expectation and is an amazing read. The plot is a unique one and the way the story brings the 2 characters together is smooth and makes sense. This book also gives me dark academia vibes and is surprisingly similar to 'The Secret History'. A secret society in a boarding school in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rich and talented students? I would want to be in the Fives just for the aesthetic. And a nuclear fallout shelter is a very unique plot. The build up to the climax is stunningly written. 'Don't Breathe a Word' is definitely worth a read.
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