Title: Paper Valentine
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin imprint)
The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, birds are dying, and someone in a peaceful suburban community is killing girls. For Hannah, the summer is complicated. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago and Hannah wants everything to go back to normal. But things can't be normal when Lillian's ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders. Hannah's trying to understand why her friend self-destructed and where she fits in among the social elite now that Lillian is gone. And she needs to stop thinking about Finny Boone, an enigmatic delinquent whose hobbies include petty larceny and random acts of kindness. With the city in a panic, Hannah finds herself drawn to a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. Only by confronting the Valentine Killer will Hannah be able to move on, and it's up to her to put the pieces together before he strikes again.
Paper Valentine brings a welcome and bitter chill to a hot summer's day. Oh so spooky and oh so dangerous, the book is descriptive and lush with detail, lush with hauntings and murders and one girl's reluctant quest to find whoever is responsible. A sweet and sad story about love, death, and friendship.
Hannah feels like such a lost girl, broken by the loss of Lillian, left to wander aimlessly and attempt to navigate the small spaces her other friends have left for her. With Lillian gone, where does Hannah fit in now? With Lillian gone, Hannah has no strength, no power, and her other friends see this as a chance to take over the top spot. There are reluctant characters, and there's Hannah, pushed into a search for a murderer by an angry and emotional ghost. Then there's the intriguing, no good, must be avoided at all cost Finnegan Boone who's keeping some secrets of his own.
The story of the dead girls takes over Ludlow, pushes fear into the hearts of mothers and fathers and daughters alike. One question rings true throughout the book and kept me guessing right to the end: who is the murderer?
Sharing the spotlight with the Valentine Killer is Hannah's relationship with Lillian. It seems to me more like an alpha versus an omega, the stronger personality dominating the meeker one, but both girls are battered and bruised in different ways. Hannah always had Lillian for support, but now she's been left alone after her death, left to find her own place. Lillian has lost most of her strength after she died, lost her presence, but she still needs Hannah to be her arms and legs, to find out what happened.
When I read a book written by Brenna Yovanoff, I'm always overwhelmed by wonderfully poetic and emotional storytelling. Such realistic and honest and flawed characters, everyone is flawed in some way, and it's those flaws, those bruises and scars, that make this book so moving. There is beauty in the darkness of this book, a gorgeous story where danger and death stay close.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Penguin Canada.)