Saturday, January 4, 2014

Review: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Title: Paper Valentine
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publication Date: January 2013
Publisher: Razorbill Books
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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 a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.

First impressions: Gorgeous cover! I love the simplicity of white, black and red. I've always been drawn to books with this kind of cover art. This gorgeous cover art hid the astonishing and unexpected novel inside. As this is my first Yovanoff novel, I'm pretty comfortable saying I'm a fan!


Although Hannah is the main character of Paper Valentine, I was most intrigued by the character of Lillian. Maybe it's because I'm terrified of ghosts in general, but her Casper-the-friendly-ghost-quality was the first real connection I made with the characters in the novel. Her utter peace with her own death made some of the grisly scenes in the novel not so bad. I really liked Lillian's role as Hannah's sidekick; it was entertaining and helped move the plot along. 

Lillian's biggest role was to show the soft side of Hannah. Hannah herself is a character I can really relate with. She's got that sweet, good girl side that she struggles with throughout the story. Paper Valentine is unique because it is not only a book about murders in a small town, but it's also Hannah's growth period after her best friend's death

I loved having Hannah as a narrator because she brought that same sweet girl-next-door flavor to a character struggling with constant changes in her personal life, with her friends, romantically, and the biggest struggle of all: losing her best friend.  


Paper Valentine has one of the most fun plots that I have ever come across. Lillian and Hannah's antics reminded me of the old Nancy Drew mysteries I used to read with my mom when I was a kid. It has that same innocence despite the dark nature of the crimes. 

The paranormal aspect of this novel added a little extra to the murder mystery. Although it terrified me when they used a spirit board, I thought it was an interesting way to allow the mystery to evolve and leave Hannah clues to the murderer. 

I did not have a clue who the identity of the killer was. Truly. Knocked my socks off. Typically (even in my beloved J.D. Robb novels), I can finger who the murderer is. In Paper Valentine? Not a clue. 

My only critique is that I felt this great plot had a slow start. It felt like Hannah was just wandering around the town without a solid plot in place yet. Once I got past the beginning, the plot really took on momentum and had a fantastic ending. 


I was really impressed by Yovanoff's writing. While I was writing my notes for this review, I realized that this book can't be pigeonholed into a particular genre; it's spread all across mystery, murder, thriller, YA, and a touch of romance. For me. this usually tends to be overload. I credit Yovanoff's fabulous writing to this compilation of genres being so successful.  


Overall, an outstanding novel. There were a few loose ends that I wished were tied up tighter at the end of the book, but nothing critical. I loved how the main plot was wrapped up. I am definitely impressed by Yovanoff's magic, and I can't wait to read more of her works. 

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