Rummanah Aasi
  I had been meaning to read a book by Breena Yovanoff for quite some time, but didn't get a chance to do so until now. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley, I was able to read an advanced reader's copy of Yovanoff's latest release, Paper Valentine, a subtle book of love and death. I enjoyed the book for the most part, but I was left somewhat unsatisfied.

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.

Review: The sleepy, small-town community Hannah Wagnor grew up in used to feel safe, but now, during a record-breaking July heat wave, a serial killer is targeting young girls. Like her setting, Hannah use to be a happy go-lucky girl but she has been hiding her depression since her best friend Lillian's death six months earlier. Hannah goes through the motions of daily life with a happy, superficial outlook such as dressing in bright colors and smiling when she's filled with sadness inside. She is constantly haunted by Lillian's ghost at her side and hears Lillian's running commentary of all the choices she makes from her clothes to her classmates. As more bodies are discovered, Hannah begins to see more ghosts-those of the murdered girls and begins to feel responsible to catch the serial killer. Investigating the deaths, she begins to wonder how much she really knows about Finny Boone, the cute bad boy she's has a crush on forever but is only just beginning to understand.
  The narrative tone of Paper Valentine is very detached and numb just like our heroine. Hannah's depression is believable. Her insecurities are tangible and the realizations of how Lillian truly was as a person is startlingly and insightful. The friendship between Hannah and Lillian is what I remember the most from this book. Lillian is the leader, obsessed about finding perfection, and slowly kills herself with anorexia. Hannah is the follower, who blindly trusts Lillian and is afraid to speak openly about her own opinions and desires. With the loss of Lillian,  Hannah has also lost her own self of identity. As the story progresses, we see Hannah thaw but it is inconsistent to her actions. For instance, Hannah has always been the dependable, responsible older sister who keeps her sisters safe, a quality that I greatly admire. When she begins to embrace her emotions, however, she starts a romance with the shady, distant, and mysterious Finny Boone at the cost of leaving her younger sisters alone with a serial killer running around their town. Of course I understood that Finny isn't what he appears to be and has a painful past, but there more than enough warning bells that went off that would make Hannah think twice before running around with him in dark places alone. To say the least, I was a bit perplexed of what to make our heroine and her choices.
  Paper Valentine has an overambitious story that bounces from important and big topics such as guilt, depression, and eating disorders to child abuse, foster families, serial murder, and mean girls. The book takes on so many issues that the characters and plot remain underdeveloped. Though the book seems to be marketed as a supernatural/paranormal murder mystery, the murders just hang in the periphery of the characters. There were quite a few times while reading the book that I forgot the murders even existed. Though there are some creepy moments in the book, the murderer, once revealed, seems random and lacks real motive, and his ultimate confession to Hannah felt underwhelming and anticlimactic. It seems as if the clues to discover the murderer were far more important than any insight into the psychology of a murderer or the fate of the ghosts in the end. Though it is engrossing at times, Paper Valentine moves at a slow pace and leaves too many loose ends, too many questions unanswered.
 Paper Valentine is not my last book by the author and I do look forward to reading her earlier books as well as future releases.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades

If you like this book try: Love You, Hate You, Miss You by Elizabeth Scott, Velveteen by Daniel Marks,  The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
5 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Sorry this one didn't quite work as well for you as it did me Rummanah! I agree with you on the murders, I forgot about them a couple times while reading as well, so I know anyone going into this looking for a murder mystery will be hugely disappointed. I'm normally one that doesn't like unanswered questions or things left open, but for some reason it worked for me in this book. I'm weird. I can't explain it:) I loved reading your thoughts as always though!

  2. I really enjoy Yovanoff's style and I think the word 'numb' describes it perfectly. I've read everything of hers, including her short stories in The Curiosities, and I liked it all.
    I understand your problems with this one and I think you're right. I'm just ready to overlook a lot when the writing is gorgeous enough.
    fantastic review!

  3. Lauren Says:

    I'm sorry this one didn't have enough character development and resolution for you. It seems many reviewers feel the same way. I love Brenna's writing, so I'll probably still give it a try, though it's nice to have a heads up on these things.

    Here's hoping you like one of her prior books better! Thanks for your honest review. :-)

  4. I love the covers of Yovanoff's books but I feel like they may not be for me as I've heard they're quite slow. If I do give them a try, I may start with something else, Rummanah. This one sounds like it tried to tackle too many topics.

  5. Hm... slow and numb... not good, but I do usually like her writing. Still it was engrossing? Oh well, I have to admit, with the review saying both including the lack of answers.. makes me curious. Usually it puts me off a book, but you actually have me curious to try it for myself!

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