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A Reader of Fictions: Review: Paper Valentine

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review: Paper Valentine

Paper Valentine

Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Pages: 368
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source: Publisher for review

Description from Goodreads:
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 Sentence: "My sister, Ariel, is sprawled upside down on the couch, pointing with the TV remote."

When I went to ALA in 2010, one of the numerous ARCs I picked up and took home, in a haze of disbelief that people would want to give me free books just because I was in training to be a librarian, was Yovanoff's debut novel The Replacement. The Penguin publicist I spoke to hyped it big time, I think because it was part of their Breathless Reads collection. Something I've learned about myself since is that I don't tend to be a huge fan of the most-hyped books put into those collections, though they do tend to do very well, they just are not my thing. Such was the case with The Replacement, which showed promise in the gothic tone and writing, but mostly fell flat. When I was sent a review copy of Paper Valentine, I really did not get that excited, but I did resolve to give Yovanoff another try, and I am so glad that I did, because she has grown a lot as a writer since her debut novel.

Ever since Lillian's death from anorexia, Hannah has been haunted by her best friend. Not by the memory of Lillian, no, but by her ghost. Lillian follows her around, giving her advice or criticizing her behavior, or both at the same time. Only Hannah can see Lillian, and, after six months of this, Hannah's pretty resigned to it, even though it can be an inconvenience and having ghost Lillian around isn't the same as having the real Lillian there.

Paper Valentine follows a lot of different plot lines, weaving them together expertly into a powerful novel. The first arc deals with friendship, with peer pressure, and with self-acceptance. Hannah and Lillian were incredibly close, best friends forever. They were also the most popular girls in school, making their own style and setting the trends. With Lillian gone, stuck with the rest of their group, now dominated by Angelie, Hannah's coming to realize that, much as she loved her, Lillian wasn't a very nice person all the time and that she could be a bad influence on Hannah. Watching Hannah come into her own as a person, both accepting the parts of herself wholly unlike Hannah and incorporating a bit of Hannah's advice made me so glad for her. Hannah needed a bit of Lillian's gumption, enough that she could tell off Angelie for being horrible and rude, but also needed to be Hannah-enough to not get too hung up on being popular.

Family, though a more minor thread certainly, still plays a crucial role in Paper Valentine. The parents are mostly absent, though the mother does ground Hannah for sneaking out and insist on meeting a boy before Hannah can go out with him. The relationship being dissected here is that of the two sisters, Hannah and Ariel. Though Ariel annoys her, understandably so, the two clearly have so much love for one another. Hannah can see how much Ariel tries to protect her and gets what Hannah is going through more than their mother and step-father do. I found their relationship touching, and loved that there was much more focus upon it than usual.

The book gets much creepier than just Lillian's ghost, however. Girls are being murdered, left in the park, heads bashed in, surrounded by the trappings of childhood, toys and candy. Next to each body is a paper heart. Needless to say Hannah will become wrapped up in the murders. Yovanoff does suspense and eerie settings very well, and there were some scenes that straight up freaked me out. What made Paper Valentine special, though, was how Hannah reacts when she finds herself in danger: she uses her brain and does not just collapse into a weeping heap waiting to be rescued. Unlike some heroines, she doesn't spend her doom-filled moments thinking of how much she loves some boy, but of ways to escape and of her sister and her dead best friend. As with when she fought back against bossy Angelie, Hannah held her own and refused to be cowed, and that just made me respect her and root for her so much.

Admittedly, I was quite skeptical of the romance at first, because I feared it was going straight down stereotype highway. See, Hannah has a secret crush on one of the bad boys. When we first see him, he's wearing a wife beater, even. He dyes his hair white-blonde with Clorox, has tattoos, and a missing pinkie. Early on, he shoplifts. I mean, not really swoon material. He never really does become the kind of guy I would swoon over, but Yovanoff makes him work, and I totally ended up shipping Hannah and Finny, who made me think a bit of Hanna and Caleb from Pretty Little Liars. Also, their romance reminded me a bit of Pushing the Limits too, only with less focus on romance, no pet names, and a murder mystery.

Yovanoff gives the reader a little bit of everything, and, after my lackluster first experience, I now plan to read The Space Between, her second novel, as well as whatever she has coming next. What a wonderful lesson in the importance of not writing an author off based on one book, especially a debut, because they have so much room to grow.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote: "'It doesn't matter what you say,' she whispers. The words are icy, but her voice sounds almost sad, like she knows that whatever happens next is going to hurt. 'They're not going to believe you. No one ever believes teenage girls about things like whether or not the guy they're running around with is a killer. No one ever treats us like we know what we're talking about.'"

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Blogger Bekka said...

I am so, so happy this was good. It sounds like the kind of book I want to love so much, but always falls flat. Hopefully this time will be different.

Also, I am green with envy that Penguin talks to you. They won't even give me the time of day :(

December 5, 2012 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Christina Reads YA said...

I don't have a whole lot to say except...
"What made Paper Valentine special, though, was how Hannah reacts when she finds herself in danger: she uses her brain and does not just collapse into a weeping heap waiting to be rescued."
And, of course, that your review just made me very excited for the book. Judging from what you wrote, the romance probably won't work much for me either, but the rest sounds great :).

December 5, 2012 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm so looking forward to this one! And I'm so happy you enjoyed it. I was first drawn to it because of the gorgeous cover but the synopsis sounds like something right down my alley. After reading your review I'm even more positive that I will enjoy this one. I haven't read any of Yovanoff's novels so I'm glad this one was better than the first. Something that caught my attention in your review is that the romance didn't feel like the usual stereotype romance like in other Ya novels.
Great review! January can't come fast enough! :)

Rachel @ Books to Consider

December 5, 2012 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Audra said...

I love the cover! I've heard non-stop swoons for The Replacements and its been on my vague TBR -- I might push this one ahead, though, based on your comments on both.

December 5, 2012 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I just read a review on Cuddlebuggery today, and Adrienne didn't care for it as much as I did, but she still liked it!

December 5, 2012 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Consciously avoiding YA tropes is a good way for me to stand up and take notice of your book. :)

The romance was okay, but I am glad it wasn't a main theme.

December 5, 2012 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

This one's a bit of an odd little beast, but I quite liked it. I hope you enjoy it as well!

December 5, 2012 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh wow, awesome! I definitely liked this better. Who knows what your friends would say!

December 5, 2012 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

Hurrah! I'm glad you liked this one. So pretty, shiny....

A romance without pet names? Halle-bloody-lujah!

December 5, 2012 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Haha, right? Pet names are almost never adorable to me.

December 5, 2012 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

Now this sounds a lot deeper and creeper than I expected. I had dismissed this, but its going back on my list!

December 5, 2012 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I wasn't going to go for this one. I've been wanting to read Yovanoff's work because of all the hype she's been getting, but I haven't been particularly interested in any of her books. But this sounds pretty good. I think I'll give it a try!

December 5, 2012 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Bibliosaurus Text said...

I just started reading this and am less than a chapter in. Your review has me all excited and stuff!!! Glad you liked it.

December 5, 2012 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger Renae @ Respiring Thoughts said...

Eww! Guys in wife beaters = big no no. Instant turn-off for me in almost any situation. *cringes*

I must admit that I hadn't been paying much attention to Yovanoff's writing, simply because The Replacement didn't sound very intriguing, plus it didn't get fabulous reviews. However, Paper Valentine sounds much more interesting, and I love the idea of a crime/thriller type story with an emphasis on family. Sounds right up my alley.

December 5, 2012 at 10:40 PM  
Blogger Giselle said...

YES!!!! Pushing the Limits romance and creepies? I'm so excited for this one! And it's like the very first review I read on it so yayzers!!! I was a bit weary too bc I heard her Replacement book was awful, but I guess that last one of hers was alright so this could go either way.But you liked it! And you hate everything so that's a REALLY good sign! *chuckles*

December 6, 2012 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yay! Hopefully you do not hate me for that. ;)

December 10, 2012 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I've heard good things about all of her books, but this is the only one I can personally recommend. I have yet to read The Space Between, however.

December 10, 2012 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Sweet. I know you finished but haven't seen your rating yet. Hope you enjoyed!

December 10, 2012 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ugh, I am SO with you on that. Wife beaters are not attractive, both because of the name and because they're just not.

If you try, I hope you enjoy. I could see it being 2 or 3 deep breaths for you, but I can't really predict your opinions at all, so who knows!

December 10, 2012 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Hahaha, YAYZERS! Bahaha, you ought to enjoy it, I think, because creepies and romance and stuff!

December 10, 2012 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger Lilian said...


I don't think I've ever seen my name (it's a different spelling...but, close enough) show up that many times in a single paragraph. Funny how my name just pops up at me even in the midst of all these other words.

I think I'll have to pick this up simply because of the name thing. Glad to know you liked it! *giddy with excitement*

Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

December 17, 2012 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger Christina said...


Yeah, she has extra L. I don't think it's that weird for your name to pop out at you. You're used to seeing it, and, plus, there's your egomania.

I don't know if you'll like this. O_O I don't remember the bulk of it as being seriously fast paced.

December 18, 2012 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Jaime Lester said...

WooHoo! I LOVE Brenna Yovanoff. Love her. And I am so excited for this book, I can hardly stand it. Reading your review, I am even more excited about it than I was. Ahh, I can't wait! I am heading over to Amazon right now to pre-order! Can't wait, can't wait!!!

January 4, 2013 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Excellent review! Thank you. I never really paid attention to this book but after reading this I plan on getting my own copy. I really thought it will be more on the romance side. I'm glad you've shown me the light. :)

January 9, 2013 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh wow. I didn't like her debut, but I definitely want to read her sophomore novel after I liked this one so much. And, to think, I didn't want to read this!

January 10, 2013 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yay! I hope you enjoy it!

January 10, 2013 at 11:00 AM  

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