Sunday, January 13, 2013

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Okay, back to business as usual. The site that should kiss my ass isn't going to get to me no matter how much they'd like to.

Title: Paper Valentine
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Pages: 320 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC in a swap with a friend
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Paper ValentineThe 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 a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.


Readers coming to this book looking for a paranormal murder mystery will need to adjust their expectations. Readers looking for an exploration of Hannah's grief over her best friend's death and a young woman who lets life float by finally doing something about it will be right at home. The deaths, while they do play a part in the novel, aren't the focus for much of it.

Hannah's a likable character with a boatload of issues she works through over the course of the novel, her best friend's ghost haunting her, and a crush on a bad boy named Finny (actually Finnegan, but that's rarely used). Her relationship with Finny happens pretty much just because YA needs romance, but more of the focus is on Hannah and her dead best friend Lillian. Even as a ghost, Lillian exerts a massive amount of power over her best friend by pushing her into investigating the murders. Between the deaths, Hannah dressing up in all sorts of beautifully odd clothes, and Hannah living life, we get glimpses into Lillian's mind as she spiraled into anorexia and eventually died from it.

Yovanoff's prose is beautiful--so beautiful that there are too many passages I want to quote. Oh, why didn't I mark any of them?! There are a few flubs here and there, such as when Hannah describes the way blood bubbles out of a wound like water when it's just starting to boil in a pot, but for the most part, the poetic, evocative writing style is the best part of the novel. If her story matched her style, this might be a five-star book.

Hannah is rather disconnected from the world; problems roll off her like water off a duck's back most of the time. Even her younger sister says if Hannah was on fire, she'd still say she was fine! Hannah's way of being distanced from life and the crimes also distances readers from the narrative. Getting connected to the story is difficult, especially when the mystery we expect to be drawn in by gets less focus than we expected. It isn't until the very end, when the killer tries to off her, that I got nervous for her and invested in the story.

Yovanoff can definitely write, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books in the future. The two I've read from here have been rather average or slightly above average, so here's hoping she'll be able to write a book that can really wow me. She has the ability. She just needs the story.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller