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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part Heathers, part Scream, and part Judy Blume
PAPER VALENTINE by Brenna Yovanoff is a magnificently, hauntingly, wonderful book.

I first read Brenna Yovanoff in last year's THE SPACE BETWEEN. Her writing is arresting and-at times-uncomfortably immersive. It's as if Brenna cracks open her characters skulls and lets all the messy and heartbreaking parts spill onto the pages. In PAPER VALENTINE, that same raw...
Published 23 months ago by AJ

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great novel that kept me alert the whole time
3.5 stars
What would you think if I told you to read Paper Valentine without reading synopsis? I bet you'd think romance immediately. That's what I thought, because of the pretty US cover and cute title, I went for it. Now imagine my surprise when it showed up on my doorstep as the Australian cover with this paper love heart, decorated with blood? I practically went...
Published 20 months ago by Melanie


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great novel that kept me alert the whole time, April 9, 2013
By 
This review is from: Paper Valentine (Kindle Edition)
3.5 stars
What would you think if I told you to read Paper Valentine without reading synopsis? I bet you'd think romance immediately. That's what I thought, because of the pretty US cover and cute title, I went for it. Now imagine my surprise when it showed up on my doorstep as the Australian cover with this paper love heart, decorated with blood? I practically went all freakish as I always try to avoid ghost stories. Even though I seem to be reading all the ones being published this year.

Paper Valentine is a mixture of three main components: Contemporary, romance and most importantly, mystery thriller. Each of these aspects fit perfectly with each other, it's so obvious of how well Brenna Yovanoff can write. Even though the beginning wasn't exactly the best, as I read this dark and creepy book, Paper Valentine grew onto me. Expect this book to stun you with twists, cute romance and overall, a quite mysterious killer.

Hannah has been seeing her best friend after six months of her death- as a ghost. But that's the least of her worries, as there's a killer on the loose, murdering girls in Hannah's suburban area, leaving children's toys and paper valentine hearts on the dead corpses. As Hannah attempts to seek out the Valentine Killer, she becomes closer to danger herself.

'Ghosts are the kind of thing you go your whole life with everyone telling you they aren't real. I believe in them anyway, because the world is full of things that no one really understands. Mostly though, I believe in them because my best friend died six months ago and now she's with me all the time, materialising silently out of the shadows, creeping closer, reaching out.'

For me, Hannah was hard character to analyse and categorise. But one thing is for sure, this girl has depth. After some thought, I have come to a somewhat relevant conclusion. Hannah sets the mood of this book. If she's depressed, I was set in a melancholic subtleness, then when I reached the creepy scenes of tense mystery I was almost immediately dragged into this phase where you just want to look behind your shoulder and jump at every freak in the floor. Brenna Yovanoff created Hannah's personality so intricately genuine that it takes ages of thought about exactly WHAT type of person Hannah is, with the fat layers of emotions being played with, I still can conclude that Hannah was a loveable and appreciated character by me.

So like I was saying, Hannah was relatively a quite character throughout even though she manages to keep a cogent voice throughout the novel. But the siding characters she conscientiously mingled with, the connections were stable and unforgettable. My cherished bond had to be Hannah and her little sister's one. The way her little sister wanted to be protective of Hannah was not only cute but also ringed the tightness in this hopeful family and the same genes of Hannah, except her sister was more outspoken.

Another admirable connection was the romance. While I wasn't too happy about the amount supplied, Paper Valentine does justice with a bad boy. Finny; misunderstood, rebel, deep and willing to fight anyone in his way, mysterious, suspected murder even. All if those word(s) are it exactly sufficient to describe Finny perfectly. He is a bad boy, but really soft hearted inside. Nonetheless, he was the perfect match for Hannah- even though I thought it was an absurd match at the beginning, Brenna manages to satisfy with her secret ways.

One major thing that bugged the crabs out of me in Paper Valentine was the background information and loose strings at the end. I wanted to know more about Lillian as a person when she was alive, while there were flash backs and referrals, I wanted Lillian herself to open up so I could explore more of her. Same for Finny. Okay, so maybe he's a mysterious guy that doesn't really reveal much about his past, especially because he was the love interest, I wanted to get to know him more. Moreover, why can Hannah see ghosts? Why can she talk to Lillian? Maybe if there was a sequel, these issues wouldn't have bothered me, but quite frankly and sadly, there is no sequel.

All in all, Paper Valentine was a capturing sinister yet quiet read. For my first Brenna Yovanoff novel, I must admit that I'm off on a great start and will be eagerly awaiting more of her books. While the prose took some time to adjust to, this book filled me with chills. I recommend this book to people who enjoyed The Dead and Buried, Pretty Girl-13 and other mystery thrillers out there!

What happens when we shine the moonlight down through the words... AKA let's find the moral/second meaning in this book

This isn't necessarily a book about a girl trying to find the Valentine murderer while being haunted by a friend. This is a book about a girl redeeming herself after the shock of her best friend dying. About a girl trying fight her way of independence, of strength, and of a long lasting friendship.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part Heathers, part Scream, and part Judy Blume, January 8, 2013
This review is from: Paper Valentine (Hardcover)
PAPER VALENTINE by Brenna Yovanoff is a magnificently, hauntingly, wonderful book.

I first read Brenna Yovanoff in last year's THE SPACE BETWEEN. Her writing is arresting and-at times-uncomfortably immersive. It's as if Brenna cracks open her characters skulls and lets all the messy and heartbreaking parts spill onto the pages. In PAPER VALENTINE, that same raw and naked emotion drips across every scene. As in THE SPACE BETWEEN, we meet a character whose life has been battered by grief. Hannah had to watch her vibrant, glittery best friend wither away and die-only she never ended up leaving Hannah. Lillian is like a super pissed off Jiminy Cricket, constantly telling Hannah what to do and disparaging the choices she makes. It would be funny if their relationship-both before and after Lillian's death-wasn't so tragic.

No one knows that Hannah still sees Lillian, not her overly protective mother, her boisterous and outgoing little sister, or her trio of Heathers-like friends. Certainly not the criminally inclined Finny who tormented her as a child. In the months since Lillian's death, Hannah has tried to keep a smile on her face even as her friends become less friendly, Finny becomes more confusing and surprisingly tender, and girls start dying in gruesome ways.

There are so many achingly realistic relationships portrayed here. The most compelling is the relationship between Hannah and Lillian. It's laced with anger and bitterness and a love so strong that it defies even the grave. The relationship that creeps up between Finny and Hannah is just as powerful, just as alluring, but for different reasons. Finny isn't an obvious hero or love interest. But like all good characters, he's got layers upon layers. And as Brenna peeled back one painful layer at a time, my heart could barely contain him.

PAPER VALENTINE is part Heathers, part Scream, and part Judy Blume. I couldn't think about anything else for hours after reading it. The story will hook you, the writing will transport you, and the characters will forever reside in your heart. Whatever Brenna Yovanoff writes next-and I mean whatever-I will be reading it.

Sexual Content:
Kissing
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Review of Paper Valentine, October 23, 2013
This review is from: Paper Valentine (Hardcover)
I really hate not liking a book. Especially when that book has a fantastic cover and title and a great premise backing it up. But this is the second time Brenna Yovanoff has tricked me into picking up a book with her pretty covers and interesting premises and the second time I've been disappointed by what I've read. And folks, that breaks my heart, because I really, really wanted to love this book and I really wanted to love Yovanoff as a writer. I kept making excuses all the way through Paper Valentine but finally, about 3/4ths of the way through, I decided to finish the book because I needed to finish it and not because I wanted to finish it. My excuses ran dry.

There are several big issues that I have with Paper Valentine. I'm going to go through them one at a time. You may disagree with me - but as someone who reads a lot of books each year, I can tell you that there is a lot of great stuff and a lot of crap going through my hands at various times and you quickly learn to pick out what is just not good.

First: Hannah. Where do I begin? She's haunted by the ghost of her best friend. She seems to have no backbone, then suddenly has backbone. She is into boys - but only those who seem to have hurt her at some point in her past. She is so many fragments of so many different things that I had a major issue trying to just figure her out. The real mystery of the story was "Who is Hannah" - because if I cannot identify with the main character, any other mysteries or strange happenings just don't make sense to me.

Second: Hannah's parents. I know little about them except they sometimes cook together and her step-father has a sleeve tattoo. Seriously - it's mentioned at least three times. I don't know why this is relevant - is he some kind of badass? Is he a cool guy? Does he represent something in Hannah's life? Where is her real father? How long have her mother and step-father been married? Is Hannah's younger sister a product of the marriage of Hannah's mother and step-father? These are valid, real questions and would have done wonders for fleshing out Hannah's background.

Third: Lillian. I get what Yovanoff is trying to do here with the guilty that Hannah is struggling with due to Lillian's death but.. seriously, repeating the same things over and over does not make Lillian's death more powerful. It becomes redundant and feels like a gimmick. Oh - Lillian died slowly, cue the tears. Sound harsh? Perhaps it is but I got so tired of reading the same lines (almost word for word) describing Lillian's passing. I wanted to know more about Lillian and why she ticked the way she ticked. Why Hannah didn't say anything. Why no one stepped in, even when the signs were visible, and most importantly, I wanted to see some kind of message on the right way to handle that situation if you ever see your friend experiencing it. Not just guilt after all is said and done.

Fourth: The mystery/thriller section. Okay, so I didn't get the significance of the birds. Yeah, it's creepy but it didn't fit. I could understand the constant descriptions of the heat - it set the mood (but mostly I just wanted to sit in front of a fan while I read the book). And finally, I was beyond surprised when we went from knowing nothing about this murderer on the loose to when all of the sudden it seemed solved. A mystery/thriller writer Yovanoff is not. This would have been better off as an exploration of the issues that Hannah was dealing with as a result of the death of her friend. The addition of a murder mystery plus all of the other elements put into the story was just too much. Also - what was the point of the paper valentines??

So those are my issues. Unfortunately, I cannot overlook them and so I will have to say that, unfortunately, I will not be picking up Yovanoff's future books - no matter how pretty those covers are.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying Coming of Age/Mystery-Thriller, February 6, 2014
This review is from: Paper Valentine (Hardcover)
Hannah Wagnor is struggling to cope with the recent death of her best friend, Lillian, and the details surrounding it. There is also the fact that Lillian’s ghost now follows her everywhere. While trying to overcome her guilt at not being able to help Lillian when she was alive, Hannah is also trying to understand how to go on with life without her. In addition to Lillian’s ghost which haunts her are several other ghosts that start appearing and they are all victims of a recent serial killer in her small town.

This is actually the first story I’ve read of Brenna Yovanoff’s and I definitely enjoyed the story and her writing skills but Paper Valentine didn’t wow me as much as I’d anticipated. The storyline itself was a tale full of emotional resonance but the combination of the ‘coming-of-age’ tale of Hannah finding herself after the death of her best friend AND the serial killer taking out locals was a strange yet engaging mix that managed to work for the most part.

The narrative is told in the first person from the POV of Hannah from which we are able to see just how deeply rooted her depression is. Hannah is a compelling character yet I found many of her actions to be extremely unreasonable especially when it came to the expeditious love for the local bad boy, Finny Boone. Like the time Finny suggested they take a shortcut through the dark park? When there’s a serial killer on the loose? Or when Hannah leaves her younger sister home alone and her and Finny go off to swim in the lake? The overwrought lines regarding him were also treading on ridiculous:

"And then we’re looking at each other, and it’s a look that goes on and on, stretching across space and time. Across galaxies."

The insta-love was there but was subdued enough to not be too bothersome. Seeing Hannah’s progression throughout the novel in finding her individual identity separate from who she was when Lillian was still alive was the most satisfying and convincing aspect of Paper Valentine. While this book had its flaws, it was a somewhat satisfying of a read and succeeded in capturing my interest for the authors previous novels.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but also a little hard to get into, January 13, 2013
By 
Ashleigh (Jacksonville, FL USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Paper Valentine (Hardcover)
See more of my reviews sooner on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC I received in a swap with a friend.

Readers coming to this book looking for a paranormal murder mystery will need to adjust their expectations. Readers looking for an exploration of Hannah's grief over her best friend's death and a young woman who lets life float by finally doing something about it will be right at home. The deaths, while they do play a part in the novel, aren't the focus for much of it.

Hannah's a likable character with a boatload of issues she works through over the course of the novel, her best friend's ghost haunting her, and a crush on a bad boy named Finny (actually Finnegan, but that's rarely used). Her relationship with Finny happens pretty much just because YA needs romance, but more of the focus is on Hannah and her dead best friend Lillian. Even as a ghost, Lillian exerts a massive amount of power over her best friend by pushing her into investigating the murders. Between the deaths, Hannah dressing up in all sorts of beautifully odd clothes, and Hannah living life, we get glimpses into Lillian's mind as she spiraled into anorexia and eventually died from it.

Yovanoff's prose is beautiful--so beautiful that there are too many passages I want to quote. Oh, why didn't I mark any of them?! There are a few flubs here and there, such as when Hannah describes the way blood bubbles out of a wound like water when it's just starting to boil in a pot, but for the most part, the poetic, evocative writing style is the best part of the novel. If her story matched her style, this might be a five-star book.

Hannah is rather disconnected from the world; problems roll off her like water off a duck's back most of the time. Even her younger sister says if Hannah was on fire, she'd still say she was fine! Hannah's way of being distanced from life and the crimes also distances readers from the narrative. Getting connected to the story is difficult, especially when the mystery we expect to be drawn in by gets less focus than we expected. It isn't until the very end, when the killer tries to off her, that I got nervous for her and invested in the story.

Yovanoff can definitely write, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books in the future. The two I've read from here have been rather average or slightly above average, so here's hoping she'll be able to write a book that can really wow me. She has the ability. She just needs the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strangely engaging paranormal mystery, October 23, 2013
This review is from: Paper Valentine (Hardcover)
I have been wanting to read this book for a while. When I saw it at the library I decided to pick it up, I figured it would be perfect for the Halloween season. It ended up being a stark, deliberate, but strangely engaging read.

Hannah's best friend Lillian died from an eating disorder and now Lillian is haunting Hannah. When some preteen girls are found murdered in uncomfortably ritualistic ways, it is decided that a serial killer is on the loose. Liliian wants Hannah to figure out who is killing the girls and won't leave Hannah alone until she does.

This is a creepy tale set during an extremely hot summer in a small southern town. There is mystery here, some horror/thriller aspects, as well as some romance. The story also deals with eating disorders (Hannah's friend Lillian died of an eating disorder).

This book was written in a stark writing style and was a bit slow moving. The mystery is slowly unraveled through hot summer days and rumors of a new Avian flu plaguing the area. Hannah is a good girl and getting involved is not something she would normally do, but this is turning out to be a not normal summer for Hannah.

Hannah is an interesting character. She is always happy on the outside, but on the inside she is still hurting from the death of her friend. She is trying to figure how to be herself and not who everyone else wants her to be. When she bumps into Finny things start to change for her.

Hannah likes Finny, he is nice to her and strangely helpful. However Hannah is not supposed to like Finny, he is the local bad boy and always in trouble for one thing or another. As Hannah starts to let herself like Finny, she realizes how much she is pretending in other parts of her life. On a side note Hannah works at a traditional photography shop and it was kind of neat to read about film processing and all of those kind of things.

This story is also about Lillian who died from anorexia. Lillian hasn't accepted her death and is still trying run Hannah's life from beyond the grave...Lillian was one of those overpowering friends who had Hannah in her shadow. Through their discussions Lillian's ghost is also forced to face some hard truths about what her disease did to her and to the people she loved. Although eating disorders aren't the focus of the story, this book does a very good job of showing the wrekage an eating disorder can leave in its wake.

The first half of the book was a bit slow, but as it continued I really started to enjoy the story. The mystery is very engaging and takes lots of unexpected twists and turns. It is creepy but never mind-numbingly scary (which is good cause I don't do super scary all that well). It also never gets super goery or anything. In a way it was kind of a "safe" serial killer story...never uncomfortably scary or gorey.

Overall I enjoyed this book. It's a good blend of thiller, mystery, coming of age, and teenage drama. There is some romance in here and some about eating disorders as well. All the characters are very complex and interesting. The mystery takes some unexpected twists and is well done. I would recommend to mystery/paranormal young adult fans.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Read, September 17, 2013
By 
KVB99 (Rockville, MD) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Paper Valentine (Hardcover)
Hannah is different from her high school friends. She's being haunted by her best friend, Lillian, who died a few months back. Hannah begins to withdraw from her other friends and falls for a guy from the wrong side of the tracks--Finny. Gradually Hannah is drawn into the hunt for a serial killer who's killing young girls around town. With Lillian's help, Hannah follows leads before a climatic showdown with the killer and with Lillian. The book is very well written and the interaction between Hannah and Lillian is quite engaging. The Finny romance is also entertaining and poignant in places. The serial killer storyline was a little overdone I thought. It seemed a little too implausible. Still, a nice read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but hard to get into., July 2, 2013
This review is from: Paper Valentine (Hardcover)
It took me a while to get into this one, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. Yovanoff's writing style is really unique and it does take some getting used to. Add that to a beginning of a book that isn't that strong or captivating and the confusion just sets a tone that leaves you relatively uninterested. But as I persevered, I really did begin to enjoy the story once I was able to get over the first third of the book.

If I were to rate this book based on the beginning and first third of the book, it would only garner about two stars. Let me explain...

The big problem with the first half of the book is the characterization. There's a lot of contradictions and many uninteresting facts. Hannah was a character that I couldn't connect with. She was clearly depressed over her best friend Lillian's death six months ago from anorexia. It was hard to connect to her and, frankly, Yovanoff just didn't get a lot of the female teenage experiences down right. The way Hannah acted with her "friends" was just really unbelievable. It didn't help that the other main focal point of the first half of the book was Lillian and her ghostly ways. She was described as an old soul, wise and considerate, but she actually seemed really immature, rude, and mean. For the first half of the book she seemed like an annoying little sister with a huge attitude problem if she didn't get her way. And her relationship with Hannah was written poorly in the sense that at times it seemed like they had another kind of relationship than friendship because I have never met two people that press up against each other so much, even if one is a ghost.

But all of those hurdles were jumped over when Finny Boone was introduced to the story and, boy, did I love him. Tall, muscular, quiet and subdued, he hangs with the wrong crowd, gets stuck in summer school, wears the wrong clothes, and even died his hair with Clorox out of boredom. Oh, and he's known for the insane speculation about his missing pinky finger. Despite all of this, I really enjoyed his characterization because he was beautifully complex and really got the story moving for me. He breathed life into Hannah and made me begin to enjoy the story because I liked the girl she was becoming when around him. And because Hannah grew up, Lillian's ghost basically did too and all of the characterization problems from the first half of the book were pretty much sweeped under the rug and the book became enjoyable. All thanks to Finny Boone, who will always remain my favorite aspect of this novel. I would read the book just for his unique brand of swoonyness.

My one other complaint with the novel besides the fact that it took so long to pick up was the murder mystery. It wasn't a main focal point for much of the story. Sure, I wasn't able to foretell who the murderer was, but it wasn't paid that much attention to. Dead girls would show up, people would freak out about girls being out alone, but it wasn't a main focal point of the book at times. It was closer to the last third of the book, but that's it. I'd like to have known more about the investigations in the beginning, I feel like it would have grabbed my interest and made the beginning of the book more bearable. As a murder mystery, we need to have more of the murder mystery in the story. And perhaps I would have enjoyed some plot clues about the actual murderer. There were none and while it took me by surprise, it seemed totally illogical until he started ranting like a maniac. Even then, I wish the motive was clearer.

All in all, I think this book is worth checking out because it is unique. The concept of the ghosts as well as the oddities evolving around the murder and unlocking the true secrets to Finny Boone were great. If you have the time to read it, I would give it a chance. If you're like anything like me and the first half of the book was troublesome, I say persevere because it is worth it in the end. This book does leave you with some questions, but it is interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book!, September 11, 2014
Paper Valentine was excellent! The plot had periods of intense suspense, great sadness, and quiet joy that made for a great read. The book has a little bit of everything: mystery, paranormal, romance, thrills, and coming of age elements that kept me hooked from the beginning.

Hannah is trying to recover from the tragedy of watching her best friend, Lillian, slowly starve herself to death. Unfortunately, this painful process is hampered by the ever-present ghost of Lillian who continues to interact with Hannah as if she were alive. Hannah puts on a good show of being okay, and outwardly she seems happy. But things are slowly starting to unravel for her as she comes to recognize that who she was and who she interacted with was greatly influenced by Lillian rather than necessarily her own desires. As her attention turns to the gruesome murders of young girls in her community and she becomes an amateur sleuth, Hannah begins to see herself and her life differently.

It is at this point that Finny becomes an important part of her life. Hannah has known him her whole life and been secretly intrigued by him for a long time. Finny is the big, rough around-the-edges kind of guy that others look down on, including Hannah's friends. While others fear him, Hannah is able to see that there is a kindness in him, a goodness that goes unrecognized. The way they interacted was really interesting. This will probably sound cheesy, but the only way I can explain their sudden, intense feelings for each other is to think that their souls had been waiting for them to acknowledge one another. This is not insta-love for those who hate that. It is an instant connection to another person. Hannah and Finny go from barely speaking to truly connecting on many levels, telling each other things they've hid from others for years.

I really liked Finny, his quiet watchfulness and his low-key sense of honor definitely resonated with me. Hannah has moments where she doubts him, getting caught up in the paranoia that is gripping the town and Lillian's toxic voice in her head, and this hurts. But it is also a part of her growing as a person and I can understand her actions.

Sometimes the plot got a little bogged down with Hannah's reminiscing but this was a critical piece in order to understand her and why she did the things she did as the novel progressed. However, the plot also had some twists that I didn't see coming and I was on the edge of my seat during the last couple of chapters.

Overall, lovely writing, an interesting mystery, and realistically drawn characters made for an excellent introduction to Yovanoff's work.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yovanoff Excels at Setting an Eerie Tone, January 8, 2013
This review is from: Paper Valentine (Hardcover)
When I went to ALA in 2010, one of the numerous ARCs I picked up and took home, in a haze of disbelief that people would want to give me free books just because I was in training to be a librarian, was Yovanoff's debut novel The Replacement. The Penguin publicist I spoke to hyped it big time, I think because it was part of their Breathless Reads collection. Something I've learned about myself since is that I don't tend to be a huge fan of the most-hyped books put into those collections, though they do tend to do very well, they just are not my thing. Such was the case with The Replacement, which showed promise in the gothic tone and writing, but mostly fell flat. When I was sent a review copy of Paper Valentine, I really did not get that excited, but I did resolve to give Yovanoff another try, and I am so glad that I did, because she has grown a lot as a writer since her debut novel.

Ever since Lillian's death from anorexia, Hannah has been haunted by her best friend. Not by the memory of Lillian, no, but by her ghost. Lillian follows her around, giving her advice or criticizing her behavior, or both at the same time. Only Hannah can see Lillian, and, after six months of this, Hannah's pretty resigned to it, even though it can be an inconvenience and having ghost Lillian around isn't the same as having the real Lillian there.

Paper Valentine follows a lot of different plot lines, weaving them together expertly into a powerful novel. The first arc deals with friendship, with peer pressure, and with self-acceptance. Hannah and Lillian were incredibly close, best friends forever. They were also the most popular girls in school, making their own style and setting the trends. With Lillian gone, stuck with the rest of their group, now dominated by Angelie, Hannah's coming to realize that, much as she loved her, Lillian wasn't a very nice person all the time and that she could be a bad influence on Hannah. Watching Hannah come into her own as a person, both accepting the parts of herself wholly unlike Hannah and incorporating a bit of Hannah's advice made me so glad for her. Hannah needed a bit of Lillian's gumption, enough that she could tell off Angelie for being horrible and rude, but also needed to be Hannah-enough to not get too hung up on being popular.

Family, though a more minor thread certainly, still plays a crucial role in Paper Valentine. The parents are mostly absent, though the mother does ground Hannah for sneaking out and insist on meeting a boy before Hannah can go out with him. The relationship being dissected here is that of the two sisters, Hannah and Ariel. Though Ariel annoys her, understandably so, the two clearly have so much love for one another. Hannah can see how much Ariel tries to protect her and gets what Hannah is going through more than their mother and step-father do. I found their relationship touching, and loved that there was much more focus upon it than usual.

The book gets much creepier than just Lillian's ghost, however. Girls are being murdered, left in the park, heads bashed in, surrounded by the trappings of childhood, toys and candy. Next to each body is a paper heart. Needless to say Hannah will become wrapped up in the murders. Yovanoff does suspense and eerie settings very well, and there were some scenes that straight up freaked me out. What made Paper Valentine special, though, was how Hannah reacts when she finds herself in danger: she uses her brain and does not just collapse into a weeping heap waiting to be rescued. Unlike some heroines, she doesn't spend her doom-filled moments thinking of how much she loves some boy, but of ways to escape and of her sister and her dead best friend. As with when she fought back against bossy Angelie, Hannah held her own and refused to be cowed, and that just made me respect her and root for her so much.

Admittedly, I was quite skeptical of the romance at first, because I feared it was going straight down stereotype highway. See, Hannah has a secret crush on one of the bad boys. When we first see him, he's wearing a wife beater, even. He dyes his hair white-blonde with Clorox, has tattoos, and a missing pinkie. Early on, he shoplifts. I mean, not really swoon material. He never really does become the kind of guy I would swoon over, but Yovanoff makes him work, and I totally ended up shipping Hannah and Finny, who made me think a bit of Hanna and Caleb from Pretty Little Liars. Also, their romance reminded me a bit of Pushing the Limits too, only with less focus on romance, no pet names, and a murder mystery.

Yovanoff gives the reader a little bit of everything, and, after my lackluster first experience, I now plan to read The Space Between, her second novel, as well as whatever she has coming next. What a wonderful lesson in the importance of not writing an author off based on one book, especially a debut, because they have so much room to grow.
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Paper Valentine
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff (Hardcover - January 8, 2013)
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