Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Title: Paper Valentine
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: RazorBill
Release Date: January 8th, 2013
Pages: 306, Hardcover
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Summary 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 begins by introducing us to Hannah and her best friend Lillian; Lillian, having recently died, is now a ghost who "haunts" Hannah. Haunt is a strong word though, Lillian mostly hangs around keeping Hannah company. Hannah, her sister Ariel and her parents live in Ludlow, a small town where everyone knows everyone. Not only is the town facing one of it's hottest summers in history, there is a killer loose and to make matters worse, the first victim is a young girl.

The dynamic of Hannah and her school friends remind me a bit of Pretty Little Liars (the TV show version). Lillian was the ring leader of the 'cool/popular kids' with her group of friends/followers; some of her lines remind me of Alison from PLL. She has the potential to be a good friend but she also makes Hannah feel like the smallest person and instills competition among the group of girls. With Lillian gone, Hannah begins to slip away from the group of girls straight into bad boy, Finny's arms. Finny is one of the town's bad boys; he rocks bleached blonde hair, white tanks tops, and an overall tough demeanor. Hannah seems to be his weakness and the two form what seems to be typical but cute bad boy, good girl relationship.

With Lillian breathing down her neck, Hannah feels obligated to stop the killings, piece together the clues Lillian left,and determine who is the Valentine Killer before he kills someone close to her or even Hannah, herself.

Beginning: I thought beginning of Paper Valentine was a bit slow and hard to wrap my head around. I just did not feel immersed in the book, felt like the plot pace was just a bit off and I had a lot of questions. Firstly: Why did Lillian die? and Why is Hannah being haunted?

Middle: Once the story and characters developed more I began to find the book more enjoyable. Yovanoff's use of small details kept the creepy factor high. She introduced more ghosts, more voices, and more murder victims. Yet she balanced the eerie, intense murder mystery with a genuine high school love story. I was reading and BAM, I was like "HA, I know I had awkward moments like that in high school."

"Finny's mouth is open a little, and I wonder if we're about to get into the reasons for things, or if this is one of those awkward moments that we never talk about and spend the rest of high school pretending didn't happen."

Then Yovanoff later describes another moment between Finny and Hannah that I thought was perfectly captured.

"For a long time, Finny and I just stand there. It's one of those excruciating silence where you can't focus on anything else. The ones that feel so fatal and weigh so much you think you'll go deaf from the pressure."

On the other hand, I am not sure what I though of Lillian's cause of death, it made sense and fit the character yet felt a bit forced, like it was a taboo topic that was just thrown into the story.

End: I really liked the ending. I went from...
Are you joking, that's it?!? That can't be it.
Well done, ya got me! I was not expecting that.

Overall, Paper Valentine was 3.5 stars, the slow start and (even though I think their relationship is cute) the stereotypical bad boy falls for good girl relationship was predictable. I did really enjoyed this book and would recommend it but just couldn't say I loved it. I did find the rest of the story beautifully haunting with a nice blend of suspense, creepy ghosts, and a murder mystery that kept me guessing.
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