Review: Paper Valentine

Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Razorbill
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 368 (ARC)
Source: Borrowed from a Friend
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.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

It took me a while to get into this one, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. Yovanoff's writing style is really unique and it does take some getting used to. Add that to a beginning of a book that isn't that strong or captivating and the confusion just sets a tone that leaves you relatively uninterested. But as I persevered, I really did begin to enjoy the story once I was able to get over the first third of the book.

If I were to rate this book based on the beginning and first third of the book, it would only garner about two stars. Let me explain...

The big problem with the first half of the book is the characterization. There's a lot of contradictions and many uninteresting facts. Hannah was a character that I couldn't connect with. She was clearly depressed over her best friend Lillian's death six months ago from anorexia. It was hard to connect to her and, frankly, Yovanoff just didn't get a lot of the female teenage experiences down right. The way Hannah acted with her "friends" was just really unbelievable. It didn't help that the other main focal point of the first half of the book was Lillian and her ghostly ways. She was described as an old soul, wise and considerate, but she actually seemed really immature, rude, and mean. For the first half of the book she seemed like an annoying little sister with a huge attitude problem if she didn't get her way. And her relationship with Hannah was written poorly in the sense that at times it seemed like they had another kind of relationship than friendship because I have never met two people that press up against each other so much, even if one is a ghost.

But all of those hurdles were jumped over when Finny Boone was introduced to the story and, boy, did I love him. Tall, muscular, quiet and subdued, he hangs with the wrong crowd, gets stuck in summer school, wears the wrong clothes, and even died his hair with Clorox out of boredom. Oh, and he's known for the insane speculation about his missing pinky finger. Despite all of this, I really enjoyed his characterization because he was beautifully complex and really got the story moving for me. He breathed life into Hannah and made me begin to enjoy the story because I liked the girl she was becoming when around him. And because Hannah grew up, Lillian's ghost basically did too and all of the characterization problems from the first half of the book were pretty much sweeped under the rug and the book became enjoyable. All thanks to Finny Boone, who will always remain my favorite aspect of this novel. I would read the book just for his unique brand of swoonyness.

My one other complaint with the novel besides the fact that it took so long to pick up was the murder mystery. It wasn't a main focal point for much of the story. Sure, I wasn't able to foretell who the murderer was, but it wasn't paid that much attention to. Dead girls would show up, people would freak out about girls being out alone, but it wasn't a main focal point of the book at times. It was closer to the last third of the book, but that's it. I'd like to have known more about the investigations in the beginning, I feel like it would have grabbed my interest and made the beginning of the book more bearable. As a murder mystery, we need to have more of the murder mystery in the story. And perhaps I would have enjoyed some plot clues about the actual murderer. There were none and while it took me by surprise, it seemed totally illogical until he started ranting like a maniac. Even then, I wish the motive was clearer.

All in all, I think this book is worth checking out because it is unique. The concept of the ghosts as well as the oddities evolving around the murder and unlocking the true secrets to Finny Boone were great. If you have the time to read it, I would give it a chance. If you're like anything like me and the first half of the book was troublesome, I say persevere because it is worth it in the end. This book does leave you with some questions, but it is interesting.

3 stars



  1. I'm really looking forward to this one. I'll have to remind myself that the end is better than the beginning though if I get tripped up. I'm also glad it's unique! Great review!!

  2. All right, well I'm not preordering this one. It sounds like it could use a different editor to work on pacing and also weaving the mystery better. If I'm going to read a murder mystery, there better be some mystery! I'm glad it did pick up for you though. Do you think you'll read any more Yovanoff?

  3. I have an ARC of this one, and I have been wavering on whether or not to read it right away. I need to (because it is Netgalley), but I've heard such up and downs about it that I just don't know about it! Thanks for the review.

    YA Sisterhood

  4. I have read both The Space Between and The Replacement and I love them both. So I was super excited when I first heard about Paper Valentine, and saw that awesome cover! (Side note: SO AWESOME that the cover goes with the story! Thank you cover artist!) I just finished reading PV a couple of days ago, and I must admit that I was disappointed. Like you, it took a good little while before I was finally into the story. I honestly had to force myself to pick it up a few times. But once it started gaining momentum, I was hooked and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I love Finny! And the little sis, too! While I can't give it as high of a rating as Brenna's previous books, it still gets good marks in my book! I loved the character growth of Hannah, and Lillian!