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:
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.
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.