Paper Valentine | Brenna Yovanoff | Book Review

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.

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff | Good Books & Good Wine

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.

Cuddlebuggery – “To me it felt like Hannah’s life was tucked away from the conflict separately and safely, so it was hard to get invested in the climax.

Pure Imagination – “Recommend it if you’re looking for something with mystery and vivid writing.

Books by Brenna Yovanoff:

The Replacement
The Curiosities

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. This sounds interesting! I have The Replacements on my TBR. She has some of the best covers ever! The Replacements cover was creepy as shit and this one is just awesome!!

  2. I have wanted to read this for years! Okay, maybe not years, but it feels like years! I think I just really like the cover and naively think “Oh, the cover is pretty! This book MUST be epic!” I’m glad to hear you say that it is. Definitely moving this one up the TBR list, stat!

  3. Oh. My. Gosh. I have to read this book! So bad. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about it. I need to jump on it. And I thoroughly enjoyed The Replacement so I’m beyond excited for this one.

  4. I *loved* this book and agree with you 110%. Brenna is definitely one of my all-time favorite authors. Great review!!!


  5. I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile now and I’m really glad to hear you liked it!! It sounds like an amazing read and looks like it’ll be fantastic! Great review!

    Literary Exploration

  6. I literally checked this out from the library yesterday. It sounds totally weird and creepy, but I love that. Oh and I love that there’s swoon moments but that it’s not a kissing book because sometimes it feels like once there’s a romance involved the MC’s entire life is defined by that romance and that is so not realistic. I can’t wait to read this!

  7. Yes, yes and yes! I didn’t love this one, but it is pretty high up there on my list. I pretty much loved Hannah as a character because she wasn’t perfect and showed growth over the course of the novel like you said. And, the killer just oh my god!

  8. This book sounds so good! I’ve been anticipating it for a while, and I love that you enjoyed it. This bodes well for ME enjoying it too! Plus, I love a good mystery every now and then…

  9. I am so, so glad you liked Paper Valentine. I went into it thinking I would like it, but I found so much more in Paper Valentine than I was expecting. I think I need to go out and buy my own copy!

  10. Flailing arms usually do it for me. Especially when they’re flailing Kermit arms. And Hannah’s family sounds fabulous.

  11. Ohhh! I just got this one from a friend, maybe it will be my next read! I LOVE that her family is present, I hate when I am reading and I am like “Okay so where’s your mom…” or that annoying “teenager growing up with a single parent who works too much and is never around” kind of thing. Love the creep factor, moving this one up on the TBR!

  12. Dude, I am available for bookish chatting anytime. Well, assuming I’ve read the book already, but you beat me fairly often. lol.

    Yes! The family is so present and I loved her relationship with her sister, and THIS: “the main focus is on Hannah and her development which is not catalyzed by a boy.” Exactly that.

    Also, how happy was that moment where she told off that bitchy girl? I was totally cheering for her when that went down. HOLLA.

  13. “when I found out who the killer was, I almost put my Kindle Fire in the freezer a la Joey Tribbiani.”<– I have wanted to do this with so many books!!! I'm glad I'm not the only one. I started this book over the weekend and am excited to get back into reading it tonight. I'll make sure to read my HC; I don't think my Kindle can handle freezer burn.

  14. This sounds fantastic, April. I am all for brilliant writing and I adore the cover

  15. So basically, you’re telling me that this book WOULD survive if it were a character in a horror movie, right? Because I’m tired of all these cheap tricks pulling off NOT SMART moves and then getting themselves butchered because of their stupidity (I’m loosely referring to crappy plots and idiotic, whiny protagonists here).

    This book has been on my radar for quite some time and I’m really happy to hear that it’s been living up to everyone’s high expectations. The fact that there is growth in our main character makes me super happy because I don’t think there’s enough of that. We get stuck with either the can’t-do-for-themselves whiner or the super bad-ass hero/heroine (which I don’t mind every now and again). I think I’m ready for a character who is multi-faceted and imperfectly perfect. Sounds like this book fits the bill in that regard! I look forward to reading it!

  16. Okay after hearing who this author’s critique partners are, I am completely sold on PAPER VALENTINE. I adore beautiful writing that is subtle but also to the point. Clearly I need to acquaint myself with Brenna Yovanoff! Also, I kept thinking that this book takes place in the Victorian age, but it sounds like it is a contemporary ghost story? It must be the cover that made me think that – and the idea of paper Valentines. Anyway, I this is going right on my TBR.

  17. Everyone agrees that Yovanoff has improved as she’s grown in her craft, so as someone who legit loved The Replacement, this is fantastic news! I really love the premise for this one, and it sounds like the author did a great job in executing it well. And I love that authors are starting to hear readers’ voices and include family relationships more often, and to write more about girls who have romance in their lives without it taking center stage. Fantastic review, April!

  18. DUDE. This sounds AWESOME. PLUS, you totally made a Joey reference and I LOVE FRIENDS MORE THAN LIFE. And when he puts books in the freezer? C’monnn. Amazingness. 😀 Thanks for puttin’ this one on my RADAR.

  19. Agree with so many points of this review. I said the same thing, I just love that her parents are present. I love that the main thread of the story is NOT the romance and I love Brenna’s writing. I can’t wait for her to write more books!!!

  20. Character development and a logical family dynamic… This sounds like something I need to check out! I wasn’t a huge fan of The Replacement, but I do love Yovanoff’s writing style!

  21. This has been on my list for a while so I’m glad to see your enthusiastic review of it-I will try to get a copy sooner rather than later!

  22. I really loved this one too! I liked The Replacements but LOVED this one, just like you. It’s so unique. Great review, April!

  23. I just got this book. I can’t wait to read it. It sounds so amazing!

  24. Oh, something that’s dark without being too heavy and unreadable? sign me up!!!
    I actually been meaning to try this author for a while now, and I’m happy Paper Valentine works so well. And Swooning! Swooning is always good.

  25. LMAO at almost putting your Kindle in the freezer! The title reminded me of Paper Heart by Charlyne Yi and I thought this would be another cutesy YA book. Mystery and killers though? Sign me up. And that cover is freaking gorgeous.

  26. I love the cover, but wasn’t super interested in the book based on the description. Well, lady, you’ve definitely made me reconsider! I loved basically everything I’ve read based on your high recommendation so I’ll certainly put this on my wish list for the future (even though the last thing I need is more books). Love that you considered sticking it in the freezer! 🙂

  27. 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? —> HERE is where you sold me.

    1. YAY for parents that are available in YA.
    2. YAY for a romance that is there but not in the forefront.

    I want to read this! I have a feeling it will be lovely on the shelf beside The Replacement and The Space Between, neither of which I have yet to pick up. Shame on me. Her design team is spectacular.

    GREAT REVIEW, April. I loved every single thing about what you’ve done here, which is pump me up for this book. Thank you!


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