Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Paper Valentine

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

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.
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

Between loving Yovanoff's debut title, The Replacement, and the gorgeous cover for this book, I was really excited to finally get my hands on Paper Valentine. In some ways that hype paid off. There is some eerie and perfect prose in this book: "someone has stolen the trees outside my room and replaced them with bones," as Hannah monologues at one point. The slayings were chilling, not just because of the innocence of the victims but also because of the creepily staged murder scenes and the town's complete inability to stop them. Hannah's relationship with her late best friend is nuanced, believable and challenging. Honestly, that was one of the best parts as far as I was concerned. In many teen books, there have been similar relationships but one party always seems to be a bully and the other a victim. Certainly Hannah was influenced by Lillian, who was often harsh and demanding, but there is more to their friendship and uncovering the layers was sometimes more interesting than the mystery- certainly more engaging than the romance. 

Which brings me to "Finny." He's not too bad, despite being described as an escapee from a 90's boy band (white undershirt, bleached hair, attitude). However, I hated his relationship with Hannah- although to be fair, this is mostly because I was really bothered by how she acted around him. On one hand she gets a real thrill out of making out with "a delinquent" (her word), which seemed unfair to him, especially when he was more respectful of her. On the other, she repeatedly makes ridiculous decisions and takes unnecessary risks to see him. Despite being told to watch her younger sister and her younger sister's friend BECAUSE THERE IS A SERIAL KILLER ON THE LOOSE, Hannah decides to leave them alone and hang out in the park with Finny. The park where at least one of the murdered girls had been found. Leaving two middle schoolers alone in the house. Cos, um, what's the worst that could happen? Yikes. 

Hannah did mostly get it together as the book progressed, and showed more backbone in her various relationships, so at least there was development. I did enjoy the ghostly aspects of the book, and the mystery was exciting. Neither had quite the payoff I think they could have, but the book mostly succeeded at being suspenseful, creepy, and absorbing. All in all I don't love it as much as The Replacement, but there is plenty to recommend it.


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