It’s hard for me to find the precise, exact words to convince you to read Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff. Like, how do I write the best argument possible without going all flailing arms and neon signs on you? You guys, I liked The Replacement, but I utterly LOVED Paper Valentine. I found myself highlighting passages on my Kindle, and hopping onto g-chat to hash out theories and OMGs (Thanks Christina at Reader Of Fictions, you are THE BEST EVER). Friends, I loved every single element of Yovanoff’s latest and am happy to report that she’s one of those authors who has grown over time.
It is freakin’ hot in the city of Ludlow, but heat isn’t exactly the only unfortunate thing. You see, there’s been a rash of murders of pretty, young innocent girls. To make matters worse, main character Hannah is haunted by the ghost of her best friend Lillian, who died of anorexia six months ago. Although Hannah is not a girl detective in any way, shape or form, she feels compelled by the murders and finds herself obsessed with the girls and finding out who killed them. Lillian tries to help, but she’s not exactly omnipotent. On top of that, Hannah is kind of a popular girl but she’s becoming attracted to Finny Boone, a boy who is very big, kind of scary and lumbering and also not exactly in the smart classes. He’s legit a wrong side of the tracks sort of person.
While I am likely making all the elements of the plot and story of Paper Valentine sound convoluted, have no fear, the story actually flows WAY better than I am able to describe it. Like, the thing that I LOVED about Paper Valentine was that it was dark without being weird and unrelateable. I didn’t feel at a distance from Hannah because she dresses differently or anything. Instead, I found Hannah to be quite likable, despite her faults. I mean, she’s the sort of character who lets other people railroad her and walk all over her, but as this is a coming of age book, she does grow and start to own her voice and feelings. And quite frankly, I love books where characters start off kind of quiet but then learn to speak up for themselves. It’s kind of the best as far as payoff goes. ALSO! Hannah is actually a good person, she’s kind and genuine, but she often is overshadowed by her more flashy friends.
I’d totally be the worst reviewer ever if I didn’t mention Hannah’s family. Clearly authors must be listening to our complaints, because Hannah’s family is VERY present. She lives with her mom, tattooed stepfather, and little sister Ariel. Her stepfather is legit the best, sure he comes off as scary but Hannah and Ariel see him as a father and he makes them pancakes and listens to them and proves appearances can be deceiving. Hannah’s mom is the worrywort sort which makes sense, because hello if some psycho is running around killing kids OF COURSE THE PARENTS SHOULD WORRY. Thank goodness logic applies to this book. THEN. There is Ariel. Who is super annoying and super adorable. She’s constantly talking and never ever shuts up, but the thing is even though her and Hannah fight sometimes, deep down there’s that sisterly bond there and it’s heartwarming.
OH OH OH and you guys of course there is swooning involved. I will say that I didn’t quite have the sense of Finny that I do with other male leads, because he’s not the main focus of Paper Valentine. While Yovanoff does a great job developing Finny’s character and again showing us appearances can be deceiving, the main focus is on Hannah and her development which is not catalyzed by a boy. So yes, there are swoons and some kisses, but this is NOT a kissing book.
Instead, it’s fairly suspenseful and scary. Like, omg, when I found out who the killer was, I almost put my Kindle Fire in the freezer a la Joey Tribbiani. Of course, I decided against that and hashed my feelings out over g-chat. Still, I legit could not believe who the bad guy was but then was like IT IS ALWAYS THAT GUY. And I realize I’m being super cryptic, but that is kind of the point. Anyways, if you are captain oblivious like I am, you’ll be surprised.
Finally, Brenna Yovanoff has so much talent. Y’all, I honest to goodness highlighted things in Paper Valentine because I loved the style of writing, not to snark on later like with other books. Seriously, maybe because she is critique partners with Maggie Stiefvater and Tessa Gratton, but I felt that, like those authors Yovanoff has this way with words that gets right to the heart of meaning. Like, Paper Valentine does not use 100 words when ten will do, but at the same time it doesn’t feel too sparse. It’s the sort of book where if you were to read it out loud the words will just roll off your tongue. Frankly, if words, characterization and coming of age do it for you, I think you ought to get yourself a copy of Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley
Other reviews of Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff:
Charlotte’s Library – “I was rather pleased with how much I enjoyed it.”
Pure Imagination – “Recommend it if you’re looking for something with mystery and vivid writing.”
Books by Brenna Yovanoff: