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:

3.5/5


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.

Advertisements

The Space Between Book Review

I’ve seen the picture many times before, but now it bothers me and I sit looking up at it, looking up at Dark Dreadful, and the vengeful face of Azrael. Like something is getting closer and I just don’t see it yet.

-pg 12

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

Daphne, the daughter of Lucifer and Lilith, has spent her entire life in Pandemonium, a city in Hell. She has everything she wants, and yet finds her life lacking any kind of color. Her demon sisters spend their days tempting young men and her brother, Obie, is a collector of souls. One day, Obie—Lilith’s child from Adam—announces to her that he is going to live on earth because, of all things, he has fallen in love. With a half human girl who understands his half human lifestyle. So he’s leaving Hell, which is unheard of. And also dangerous.

Daphne begs him not to go. He goes anyways. And is immediately struck by misfortune. The moment he goes missing, Daphne decides to go after him. Partially on her mother’s request, but mostly because he’s the only person in Hell, besides Beelzebub (one of her father’s high ranked workers that oversees Obie’s job) that she likes.

So Daphne sets off, even though Beelzebub warned her not to. She starts with the last person she had seen Obie with— a boy called Truman. Truman had, a year ago, made a trip down to hell because he tried to kill himself. He came down the day Obie was leaving (a moment for Obie and Daphne is a year for poor Truman) and Beelzebub sent him back up for a second chance at life at what Daphne’s thinks is a favor for her. So Truman departs with Obie, and then Obie goes missing, making Truman the last person to have seen him.

So Truman and Daphne embark on a search for Obie and the results are wonderfully shocking.

I really need to say this— I love Yovanoff’s writing. She’s seriously skilled. One of those people that has the ability to weave a tale together with the perfect choice of words and phrasing. All of her characters— Daphne, her sisters, Truman— came to life and they feel so real to me.

She alternates narration with Daphne as the main focus in first person, and  Truman’s point of view told on third person. This was a perfect balance. It kept Daphne focal, but Truman’s story was touching and needed to be told and explored separately. Normally, I wouldn’t like this because the switching of perspectives, etc, etc. But because she went from first person narration to third, it was easy to discern who the narrator of the chapter was, which made it easy to follow and very enjoyable. Also, I think she chose the perfect narrator for each chapter. The voice always suited the scene.

And yes, Daphne and Truman had different voices because they had different problems. Daphne was half demon (Lilith) and half angel (Lucifer, the rebel angel cast out of Heaven). She wanted to find her brother, please her mother, explore earth, and eventually love Truman. She struggled against her demon instinct that made her want to be like her man-lovin’ sisters who were selfish (but they were just demons after all). She was demure and innocent in so many ways, but found her ground and her power.

Truman— well, we know what his problem was. After his mother died, he was depressed. He tried to kill himself. He visited Hell, and was sent back. He’s struggled with alcohol and his sadness for a year. When he reunited with Daphne, it’s not easy for him. He’s accepting of what she is because, well, he’d seen it with his own eyes. But he isn’t ready to jump on the Obie Search Wagon right off the bat because he doesn’t know Daphne. It takes time for his relationship with her to develop. And during that time, he and Daphne truly became memorable characters.

And I think that’s part of what makes Yovanoff’s writing so good. She creates these flawed characters that are resolutely human in emotions if not race, and she makes you get so attached to them. Just by experiencing their stories. No cheap gimmicks, glittering skin, sympathetic. I loved the characters because of who they were, and how they faced their flaws.

I might as well just say it here too— the romance in this book was perfect. The book isn’t a romance— it’s a story that just happens to have romance in it, and a story where love does wonderful things.

Another part of Yovanoff’s brilliance is the way she creates a world. So after I read this book, I Wikipediaed everything about Heaven and God and Lilith and Lucifer and the War of Heaven and I have to say— that’s some sweet source material. Like, it’s really, really, interesting and the characters are already fascinating. But the way Yovanoff evolves them and uses them makes them more approachable and there, in the room with you.

For instance, there’s the archangel Azrael, the angel of death. His job is to kill the demons. Normally, that’d seem like a good thing. But when your main character is a demon girl who’s rightly terrified of Azreal’s power (and his monster, Dark Dreadful), it casts him in a different light. Yet Yovanoff doesn’t try to force out sympathetic feelings for Daphne’s kind. After all, they’re sort of wicked. But it made the story different. And her characterization of Azrael had me turning on lights in the scenes where he appeared because I was scared too.

This is an incredibly long review, and I’m still not done. Wow.

So beside the simple depth that Yovanoff weaves into her story, there’s also this wonderful thing called pacing where everything happens at just the right time and the story never felt boring or slow or rushed or whatever. It just flowed and the characters took over and played their roles and I was completely engrossed.

The ending came in slowly and it shocked me. Without giving anything away, I’ll state that my one critique for this book was that that way Lucifer punishes the traitor seemed— over the top? Sure he had betrayed him to work with Azrael, but death for one of your oldest comrades? Then again, it’s the devil we’re talking about. So maybe harsh is just his deal.

But as for twists and turns and unexpectedness and originality in the ending? A+ job. It was all very believable and worked within the context of the story.

To end this, I’ll just say that this was a refreshing piece of literature. I’ve been snowed in and reading a lot, and there have been ups and downs, but this book really stood out to me. It’s not a literary classic, but it’s such a good story, I would say it’s even worthy buying. It takes some classic religion and does wonderful, unexpected things with it, and it completely blows any other angel-quasi-religious stuff out of the water (including that Hush Hush series. Pales in comparison). Simply put, it’s a perfect example of a very good book.

Ri’s Rating:

QQQQ/QQQQQ
4/5


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.