Paper Valentine Book Review

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.

-Cover Flap

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may have noticed that Ms. Yovanoff has a bit of a streak here for writing books that endlessly delight me and she’s done it again. Paper Valentine is the story of a sleepy town (can’t count the number of times I’ve used that in book summaries, yeesh) in the grips of the hottest summer on record. Our leading lady, Hannah, lost her best friend Lillian, and Lillian, being a good friend, has decided to stick around. It’s sorta nice having your best pal around even if she’s dead, but mostly Hannah wants her life to go back to normal.  But with a string of murders marking the days, this summer is anything but.

Pushed by her ghostly amiga, and maybe a little bit by the mysterious Finny Boon too, Hannah begins an investigation into the murders. Like the town, the pace is sleepy, and Hannah takes her time meandering between the endless crises that beset young teenage girls and piecing together the mystery of the Valentine Killer.

I don’t mind the pace at all, and I think it’s what Yovanoff does best. The slow bits of her stories are always the most engaging, sort of like how slowly eating a chocolate-walnut torte is enjoyable. And if you’re thinking, hey now aren’t murder mysteries supposed to be fast paced, I’d say that you’re absolutely right and that the murder/mystery is the least interesting part of this book.

Not to say that it’s bad, but that I think Yovanoff just does characters so much better. I like their depth, and the way they linger and move so slowly like we’ve got all the time in the world to get to know them and their dark inners. The plot just seems like a convenient background rather than the reason you read the story. In this case, the murders are just setting, really. The push of interest comes from Hannah and her relationship with Lillian and, eventually, Finny.

(And I’ll take a moment here to state that I love the boys Yovanoff writes. They’re always so fascinating, sometimes because they’re broken creatures, and sometimes because they’re changelings. Finny’s just a human, but I like that he’s got a back story and I like how his romance with Hannah is obvious, but understated, and I like how it takes its time.)

The exploration of characters here isn’t, like, mind-blowingly deep, but it’s interesting, probably because of its simplicity. It’s the sort of thing I feel like a lot of youths (and adults) can relate to, and if one considers the way youths (and adults) like to stare at people on the street—a blend of curiosity and reflection— you can understand the drive to finish this book.

I really enjoyed it. I admit the end, where the mystery must be solved, is a tad confusing and a little flustered. This is sort of a trend in her books, from what I’ve noticed. All this slow, delicious build up, and then a climatic cacophony. It’s particularly bad in this one just because, as I said, the killer is more background than plot, and when suddenly comes to the forefront, you sort of just don’t care. It’s like stuffing that torte into your mouth all at once. But, hey, there’s coffee to help it go down: the end wraps things up nicely and the taste that’s left is satisfied.

This isn’t my favorite book by Yovanoff, but it’s still a good one. I adore the gothic icing she adds, and the writing is wonderful. I find this a particularly apt story considering the time of year (Halloween) and highly suggest it as an alternative to trick-or-treating if you suddenly find yourself too old for the kid stuff but not old enough to die and perform some exquisite hauntings of your own.

Ri’s Rating:


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

Leave a comment


  1. Em

     /  October 28, 2013

    RI! *hugs* You’re updating more frequently now. :D I need to ask my librarian to order some of Brenna Yovanoff’s books, she sound like a really good author.

    It was great hearing from you again, Ri. :)

  2. bill fence

     /  October 30, 2013

    Great review


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