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Paper Valentine

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Year: 2013
Page Count: 304
Genre: YA Paranormal Mystery
Warnings: murder/death of young girls, eating disorders, mention of child abuse

Summary: 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.


I feel as though whenever I read a YA novel, it’s either brilliant or it’s dreadful, so I wasn’t sure which way Paper Valentine would lean towards. Fortunately, within the first few chapters, I was convinced that I would enjoy reading this. 

Brenna Yovanoff is a good writer. She has a beautiful, melancholy style that really suited the macabre atmosphere of her novel (which reminded me of Maggie Stiefvater or Hannah Moskowitz). My favorite parts were the moments with Hannah reflecting on her grief over Lillian and the novel really shined in those instances when Hannah was searching for her own identity. The fact that she’s being haunted by her dead best friend made for an interesting twist in the coming of age tale. 

As per the genre, it’s a requirement that there be some kind of romance. I thought the slow, quiet buildup of her relationship with Finny was super sweet. He didn’t say much the entire novel but nonetheless he was an interesting character. I was sold on him from that first flashback Hannah has about her first detention. Sadly, I feel as though the development of their relationship was rushed/interrupted by the secondary plot dealing with the serial killings. 

That is where I feel as though the novel is weak. The murder mystery doesn’t feel very developed and Hannah doesn’t have much to do with actually solving it. She just happens to be in the right place or certain things just seemed to happen. Then she starts seeing the ghosts of the murdered girls and I’m wondering why that is. But it’s a question that is never answered. I wasn’t shocked or cared much when I learned the murderer’s identity. If you want to read a developed murder mystery thriller, go read one of Tana French’s novels. 

Yovanoff already had a great story exploring Hannah’s grief, her coming of age, and the literal ghost of her best friend. Throwing some serial murders into the mix made it way too complicated.

TL;DR

Liked: the writing, the characters, the themes
Disliked: the murder mystery portion of the plot
Rating: 3.25

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