TITLE: Paper Valentine
AUTHOR: Brenna Yovanoff
Goodreads / Author's Website
Paper Valentine is one of those books that drew me in with a cover. Serioulsy, isn't it gorgeous? I forgot the book I was reading and had a long transit trip so I stopped into the first store I saw and picked up this book. I was pretty sure I had read a review on another blog awhile ago, but really had no idea what I was in for. This was my first Yovanoff novel and I was completely enthralled. It's not a perfect story, but it's so creepy I couldn't put it down. I'll definitely have to read her other books when I get a chance.
Paper Valentine is set in Ludlow a sort of suburban town; the kind of town where the occasional bad thing happens, but it's shocking when it does. Kids still walk around on their own and parks are safe places. This summer is different though. There's a massive heatwave, the city is sweltering and a serial killer is killing young girls. Hannah isn't thinking too much about the murders though. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, but worse than that, has been haunting Hannah ever since. Hannah just wants life to be normal again, but between the ghost, the murders and the fact that she's pretty sure she has feelings for local bad boy Finny Boone, how can it?
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. The tone was spot on. Ghost stories should be creepy and Yovanoff's writing is super creepy. I got the chills reading about Lillian, combine that with the murders wracking the town and it's a leave the lights on kind of book. There were some things that I just wasn't that into though.
The story felt a little disjointed, like it was two separate stories. There was the Hannah plays detective and tries to solve the murders plot line and the Hannah deals with her best friend's death plot line. They were both compelling, they just didn't totally mesh together.
Hannah playing detective was creepy and cool. She sees the crime scene photos, there are some supernatural elements she plays with and there's always that WHY ARE YOU RUNNING UP THE STAIRS kind of moment. It was pretty great. But it was overshadowed by an equally compelling plot line.
The main focus seems to be on how Hannah is dealing with Lillian's death and her ghost. Lillian succumbed to anorexia and Hannah hasn't known how to behave since. She's sad, she's angry, she blames Lillian, but she also blames herself for enabling Lillian. Her entire social group has pretty much moved on and without Queen Bee Lillian around, she doesn't really fit in anymore. These were the popular, too cool to even care, but we'll dress up in thrift store duds, girls (it can't just be my high school that had these girls right). But Hannah's not even sure if that's the life she wants anymore. I loved watching her struggle to figure out who she is without Lillian. Her friends, hated them, but Hannah was different. I love stories about people coming into their own and this was a good one.
Also great, the relationships. Not just the fractured Hannah/Lillian relationship, but pretty much all of them. They were very grounded which I loved. Hannah and her little sister had the sweetest relationship going, where you could just feel the love and sure the parents disappear, but they're around enough to make dinner and chastise bad decisions. The romantic relationship was okay, I wasn't swooning for Finny, but these two kids were cute and it made me smile.
See I loved so much about this book, I just wish I didn't feel like the murders were sort of tacked on. Getting Hannnah a little more in on the action would have helped. She seemed pretty removed from the murders for most of the book. The ending pretty much saved this plot line for me and I did enjoy it. I just wish it was more present from the beginning.
Overall I really liked this book, the writing, the tone, the character building. I haven't read anything about Yovanoff's other novels, but I can't wait to pick one up in the near future.