Thursday, March 7, 2013

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Published by Razorbill (Penguin)
On Shelves Now
Reviewed by Middle Sis Jenn
The Sisters Say:  Creepy and Thrilling with a touch of sweet romance
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.

This is one of those books where you read it and then wonder, “Why did I wait so long to read this?”  I’ve had an eARC of this book since at least November, but I kept putting it off because I just didn’t know how much I would enjoy it.  Now that I have read it, I can say without a doubt that Brenna Yovanoff knows how to give you that fearful tingle that travels slowly up your spine until you want to run through your house and turn on every light!

The whole serial killer aspect of the story was slow starting—I think it was only mentioned once in the first 30% of the book, but after the murders start escalating, then the book really takes off.  Now that doesn’t mean that the first part of the book is boring—I actually really enjoyed it.  You get to see inside Hannah’s mind and into her life, and its heartbreaking watching her deal with the ghost of her dead best friend, Lillian.   She’s angry at Lillian because she doesn’t understand how Lillian let herself waste away, never fighting the ugly thoughts in her head; and that anger defines Hannah’s current personality.  I related to Hannah even though I had never been in that situation because Brenna’s writing just made the strained relationship come to life (in the face of death).

I really enjoyed the thriller aspect of this story, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not figure out the identity of the killer.  I think I went through 5 different suspects before the truth was revealed!  I never saw that ending coming, and that was what made this so great!  I love books where I can’t predict what is going to happen, and unfortunately, predictability seems to be a common problem in the YA genre.  I also loved the psychological side of this book.  You get Lillian’s inferiority complex and low self-esteem and Hannah’s brokenness and add that to Finny’s (the love interest) danger-seeking, destroy me attitude and there are certain to be fireworks.  Plus, you have a serial killer who stages his scenes like something out of a deranged toy store and the creep factor just zooms to new levels.

Perhaps my favorite part of the story was watching Hannah and Finny fall for each other.  They are both so broken in their own way, so it’s heart-wrenching to see them cling to each other for support and trust.  However, the waves of doubt that seem to ripple through their relationship make them all the more relatable and tender to read about.  I loved that Brenna gave us a sweet romance to offset the brutality of the murders and the creepiness of the hauntings.

The only issue I had with it (and this is what makes me go with 4 stars instead of 5) is that there are some plot holes that are left unexplained.  For example, Hannah is being haunted by Lillian, the ghost of her best friend.  Is this the only paranormal element that exists in her world?  Or could there be something else?  How the ghosts appear is never explained, and Hannah never even questions the how or why of it.  I just find that a bit strange.  Furthermore, it never explains why Hannah is the only one who can see the ghosts.  I would really have liked to know if it is a power she has or if ghosts can reveal themselves to chosen people or what not.  That was never explained and it still leaves me wondering about it now.

Overall, this was a great read and it was definitely something different in the YA genre (at least for me).  I have not read many ya thrillers, so the psychological warfare and the murders were new to me.  I really did enjoy it, though, and I look forward to more from Brenna and this particular sub-genre in ya.