Review: Paper Valentine

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Release Date ~ January 8, 2013
Razorbill ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9781595145994
ARC received from Penguin Canada 

Goodreads Synopsis:

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.
For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.
With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is the book that has absolutely convinced me that Brenna Yovanoff is one of my new favourite authors. She has such a way with words, and you just know she's going to be awesome with such a fabulous first name (hehe)!

She has this rare talent to capture so much ambience with her words - from creepy, to ethereal, to utterly romantic. And I appreciate that she puts so much thought into her stories, giving them plenty of layers to peel back.

  1. Creepy plot (complete with ghosts):

    I like some of my books to be creepy, and creepy is one thing that Brenna writes so well. I was impressed with how much of the story was grounded in reality; girls going missing and turning up dead? That's real life and it is horrifying. A little bit of a paranormal twist, enhances the creepiness factor rather than detracting from it.
  2. Struggling with grief:

    One of my favourite aspects of Paper Valentine was how Hannah struggles with Lillian's death. She becomes increasingly aware of how complicated and messy their friendship was, and she's honest with herself about that. She struggles to balance the good memories with the bad ones, and trying to reconcile the little girl she once knew with the hurting teen her friend was at her death. This pain is very honest and real, and I appreciate how complex Brenna made their friendship and Hannah's grief.
  3. Complicated characters:

    Each character has their own flaws, their own struggles, and yet manage to stand out on their own as independent and life-like characters. I like how well this was done with Hannah and Lillian, as well as additional secondary characters like Finny and Hannah's sister. They can remind you so much of people you know, in both good and bad ways, and its a strength for the story. 
I simply adore Brenna's writing, because there really is something hauntingly poetic about it. I loved following along with the mystery, although I was admittedly a bit disappointed with the big reveal. I like a lot of build up in my mystery plots, but they really need to deliver at the end too. It wasn't enough to ruin the story for me, but it was a bit of a let down by the end. I recognize, however, that the main purpose of the story isn't so much about who the killer is or why he's killing girls as much as it is about relationships and grief. 

I highly recommend this read for anyone looking for something a bit different from the standard YA fare. I like that we're seeing more mysteries and thrillers, especially when they're as well done as Paper Valentine. 


Christina said...

Yeah, the big reveal was definitely a disappointment. I found it by far the weakest aspect of Paper Valentine. I still really liked it though, giving it four, as you have.

Bonnie said...

I have been eyeing this book for quite a while now and I'm really excited to read it. I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed it and are loving this author. Wonderful review!

ChristasBooks said...

Yay so happy you liked this one. I thought this book could have easily been a sort of throwaway ghost/mystery story but the addition of Lillian's character and the issues associated with her makes it much more poignant.

Andrea @ Cozy Up said...

I've read one of Brenna's books and I wasn't the biggest fan of the story, so I have been hesitant to pick up another one of her books, but the more I hear about this one I think I really need to give her another chance. This sounds amazing and I'm interested in how this is a book more about the relationships.

Alexa said...

I couldn't even finish this one because it was so stupid to me how Hannah had just been sitting by letting her friend waste away to nothing and then die because of her eating disorder. I could never sit by and let a friend die over food when I knew there were so many ways and people out there who could have helped her.

I'm glad you found the story to be interesting though.
THanks for the great review!

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