Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff


I’m not a huge fan of horror books or even horror movies or horror stories. What can I say, I’m a big scaredy-cat. So I don’t think I would have read Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff if it wasn’t the YAckers pick for this month. Since the book is available in the Singapore public library and I didn’t have to buy a copy, I thought I might as well give it a try. Plus, I didn’t want to miss a YAckers discussion two months in a row – last month’s discussion was about Anna Dressed in Blood, another horror book. Also, I haven’t read any of Brenna Yovanoff’s books and I’ve heard good things about her writing from other book bloggers.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Paper ValentineThe 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.

How about that cover? Looks lovely, doesn’t it? It’s so pretty that I don’t think I would have realized it was a horror book just based on the cover. But now that I’ve read the book, I think the cover design is a good fit. It took a while for me to get into the story and it wasn’t because I found the book creepy. It was spooky but that’s expected since it’s a story that involves ghosts and a serial killer. I guess I just found the start a little slow and dragging. Even after a hundred pages or so, I felt like I was still getting to know the main character, Hannah. And I did care enough about Hannah to read on. I liked how creative she is in designing her own dresses because she wants to look bright and happy even if she doesn’t feel like that inside. She hasn’t gotten over her best friend’s death and that probably has to do with the fact that Lillian’s ghost is constantly haunting her. I also liked the start of Hannah’s love story because it was tentative and hesitant and she liked a guy that was an unusual choice for her. I just wish there was more time for the romance to develop fully. So yes, it wasn’t like I didn’t like Hannah as a character, I guess I just didn’t like her enough to get over everything else that didn’t work for me in the novel.

After I finished reading the book, I thought to myself, “That’s it?” because I guess I was expecting more from the story. It’s not that Brenna’s writing wasn’t good because it is, she has a way of vividly describing scenes and using beautiful phrases while she’s at it. I just felt like there was too much going on for me to like the whole thing. There’s the murder mystery, the ghosts haunting Hannah, Lillian’s death and how strong her hold on Hannah is, the romance, Hannah’s family and her interactions with so many other secondary characters. There were just too many bits and pieces struggling to be noticed that it felt like there weren’t enough pages to elaborate on all of them. Also, there was a build up to the murders but the revelation at the end was kind of a letdown for me. I don’t want to go into details for fear of spoilers but if you’ve read the book and want to hear about more in-depth thoughts, then please check out the YAckers discussion (will link to it once it’s up). It saddens me that I’m a little disappointed in my first Brenna Yovanoff but if you’ve read her other books, please let me know if they’re any good and whether I should pick them up. If you’re a fan of creepy ghost stories and murder mysteries then by all means, go ahead and read Paper Valentine. You might end up liking it a lot more than I did, it looks like that’s the case for other bloggers based on reviews that I’ve seen.

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine
Charlotte’s Library
Emily’s Reading Room
The Nocturnal Library

18 thoughts on “Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

  1. Awww, that sucks that you were let down and that it wasn’t what you expected. See, I liked that the romance was a lot more quiet/not the main focus. Plus, I like creepy ghosts and murder mysteries, so I guess you are right about preferences and all that.

    • April, I saw that you loved this one. I did like the romance as well, I just felt that it could have been developed more. I don’t know if the fact that I’m not a big fan of ghost stories (I’m okay with murder mysteries) contributed do my overall disappointment in this book, I think it’s more of my expectations weren’t met. Looks like you’ve read Brenna’s other books and loved them as well, do you think I should still give them a try?

  2. See, I really enjoyed this book, and one thing I thought it did so very well was talk about eating disorders, both from Lillian’s (ghost’s) point of view and from Hannah’s point of view. I could really relate to Hannah’s confused mix of sadness and frustration and anger and helplessness in regards to what happened to her friend. I also loved Finny. 🙂

  3. I agree that there was a little much going on. And YES to the slow beginning. You summed up what I thought of the book pretty well. Thanks! Now I can just direct people to your review. 🙂

    • Brandy, so glad to know that I’m not alone in how I feel about this book! LOL have you finished reading it then? I can’t remember if you were done with it when we were chatting on Twitter.

  4. “There were just too many bits and pieces struggling to be noticed that it felt like there weren’t enough pages to elaborate on all of them.” *nods head* It needed much more elaboration in general. With your shrewd review and my participation in the YAck, maybe I don’t need to write a review for my own sanity. 🙂

    • LOL for your own sanity. YAcking about the book really helped me organize my thoughts so I didn’t have a hard time writing this review. I’m glad I joined the discussion even if I didn’t end up liking the book.

  5. I feel like horror is just Not My Thing, so I didn’t pick this one up for the YAcker read-a-long when I found out Paper Valentine had horror aspect. I know, I know, I should expand my horizons. Something about this one just didn’t call to me though.

    • Janice, horro is Not My Thing, either. But I didn’t want to miss a discussion two months in a row and since I was able to borrow the book from my library (Anna Dressed in Blood was on loan during the discussion for that), I thought I should just go ahead and read it. Yeah, Paper Valentine didn’t really encourage me to read more horror books.

  6. Saw a review for this one over at YAbookscentral. Agree that the cover is pretty, in fact, it looks a lot like something I did for our class bulletin board for Christmas waaaaay back. The concept I mean, not the actual illustration. But I ended up reading Shana Abe’s The Sweetest Dark instead of this one, since I’m already a fan of Abe’s Drakon series and Sweetest Dark will be her first YA novel. Got a hold of an ARC, so I’ll probably try to relaunch my book blog with a review of that book.

    I like the concept of Anna Dressed in Blood better than this one though. Anna’s been in my “must pick up a copy to try” list for quite a while.

    • LOL yeah, go post more reviews! I was actually curious about Anna Dressed in Blood but like I said in my reply above, I wasn’t able to borrow it from the library and since I’m not a big fan of the horror genre, I didn’t want to buy a copy.

  7. Awww, that’s too bad that you didn’t love Paper Valentine. I loved it, but I have a thing for ghost stories. Not that I like things that are really scary, but ghost stories I just can’t resist. I actually liked that Paper Valentine was a lot of things: a ghost story, a mystery, someone dealing with the death of her best friend.

    To each his own, though.

    • Quinn, exactly. We can’t always like the same books, which is why I still encourage readers of the horror genre to read this one. It’s funny that I felt like there was too much going on in the novel and yet that’s the reason why you loved it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the book!

  8. I’m absolutely in love with this book’s cover. While the story doesn’t necessarily appeal to me (as I’m not too much a fan of the creepy and the scary and the ghosts), I’m still intrigued enough to give it a try. I’ve heard lovely things about her writing, which is what I’m looking forward to experiencing if I get to read this one!

    • I agree, the book really has a lovely cover. It looks like we’re both not into horror books. Maybe it would be a good idea for you to start with Brenna Yovanoff’s The Replacement? I’ve heard good things about that one.

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