Book Review: Paper Valentine

Paper Valentine
Published By: Razorbill
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Page Count: 368
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Paranormal Mystery

I really enjoyed The Replacement so I had high hopes for Paper Valentine. Brenna Yovanoff did not let me down; this novel is a dark, haunting mystery that will have you guessing until the final reveal.

Teen girls keep winding up dead in the town of Ludlow. A blanket of paranoia descends upon the town's residents and young girls are forced to stay indoors as the sweltering heat smothers everyone. The only clue to the killer's identity are the handmade valentines that appear attached to the bodies. The creep factor of this plot line is high, which makes for a perfect winter read. Even though this one is set in the summer, I love reading creepier books at this time of year. The days are shorter and the pitch black evenings help increase the spooky mood.

One thing that sets this mystery apart is the paranormal element. The main character, Hannah, is being haunted my her best friend, Lillian. Lillian died from an eating disorder and Hannah has not been able to climb out from underneath the guilt she feels about not doing something to intervene before it was too late. The relationship between these two girls adds an intriguing layer of complexity to the tale. I loved that even in death, Lillian is still pushing Hannah to stand up for herself. The character development - particularly Hannah's - is masterfully done. I loved the layers of this novel; it has something to appeal to everyone. Paper Valentine is a wonderfully twisted concoction of mystery, ghosts, realistic fiction, coming of age, and tough issues.

The narration of this novel was oddly reminiscent of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. The two novels have little in common - aside from a killer targeting teen girls and a female narrator - but I couldn't seem to shake that notion from my mind as a I read. Hannah's voice reminded me so much of Susie's. I love both novels so this comparison is by no means a criticism. I found Susie's voice to be unforgettable and I predict that Hannah will follow suit. There is just something about this novel and Hannah that creeps beneath your skin; the complexity of the character makes for an alluring read.

Brenna Yovanoff's writing will surely appeal to a variety of readers. This novel showcases her ability to walk a fine line between sparse imagery and verbose descriptions; the writing truly lives in shades of gray. She provides concrete details for the mystery elements, but leaves much to the imagination of the reader concerning the setting, characters, and ghost elements. I enjoyed that I was given enough description to start forming a picture in my mind while still being forced to fill in some of the picture on my own. I don't always enjoy books that lack vivid imagery, but the balance of this one kept me intrigued. The blending of mystery and paranormal is also well done. The ghost element only adds to the overall story and doesn't detract from the plot.

Overall, I highly recommend this to fans of mysteries and paranormal fantasy. Curl up with this book on a winter afternoon and devour it in one sitting - trust me. It is the perfect way to escape reality and lose yourself in a great read. Yovanoff is a writer that I will read in the future without hesitation. Also, how could you not read this book when it's just so pretty? Don't you love this cover? 

One Last Gripe: There is a moment when you think the killer has been revealed. It seemed too easy; I found myself hoping for a twist. Yovanoff delivered in a big way. I so did not see that ending coming.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved a lot about this one, but I found the relationships to be intriguing - not just the romantic ones.

First Sentence: My sister, Ariel, is sprawled upside down on the couch, pointing with the TV remote.

Favorite Character: Hannah, but I do adore Ariel and Finny as well

Least Favorite Character: Angelie

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. 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.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.


  1. Well, the idea of Paper Valentine is really creative I love the cover of the book, but I so did not know that it was about a killer and girls disappearing, and ghosts! WOW! Such a combination of intrigue!
    I am going to add this to my TBR
    GREAT review, as always, Andrea
    Your constant reader,

    1. It was a really creative read. I loved the combo of mystery and paranormal.

  2. I am so excited to read this one! I loved Yovanoff's last publication, The Space Between.

    1. I have The Space Between, but haven't read it yet. You will love this one, Paula.

  3. Thanks for linking this in to Books You loved. Cheers

  4. Thanks for sharing this book.

    Stopping by from Carole's November Books I Loved. I am in that list as #4.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

  5. This sounds creepy and intriguing and I just recently heard about it. Thanks for your thoughts! Hope to read it soon!

  6. I'm SO looking forward to this read. I've loved everything Brenna has published. Such a unique writing style. Can't wait to dive into this one!!

    1. I love her writing style. This particular novel has a creepy mood that left me freaked out on more than one occasion.

  7. Super excited for this. The cover is absolutely gorgeous and I love Brenna Yovanoff's writing :)

  8. Thank you for making my Christmas Day even better with this review! I am a HUGE fan of Brenna Yovanoff. She is an epically awesome writer and The Replacements and The Space Between are among my favorites. I have been crazy, stupid excited about Paper Valentine, and hearing that it lives up to the authors awesome standards makes me so happy. And another thing in this review that makes me even more excited to read the book is that it is completely different but still reminded you of The Lovely Bones and Susie. That book is definitely a fave as well. Thanks so much for the review! I hope that I can get my hands on this book ASAP!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the review. Thanks for your comments. I hope you love this one as much as I did!

  9. A twist? Love that! Adding to my library hold list.

    1. I'd love to hear what you think of this one after you've had a chance to read it.

  10. Another awesome sounding book by Brenna Yovanoff that I can't wait to read. I love stories that are a bit more on the darker side so I really want to read this! Thanks for the review!

  11. I love a good mystery and this sounds like it would be a great read for a snowy day or stormy afternoon. The cover is gorgeous too!


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