Review of PAPER VALENTINE by Brenna Yovanoff

For those of you who didn't know, author Brenna Yovanoff (acclaimed for her novel THE REPACEMENT) has a new novel debuting at the end of January 2013. Her new novel is titled PAPER VALENTINE. Look for it wherever books are sold.

To be perfectly honest, I couldn't finish THE REPLACEMENT. I picked up a copy at the library, loved the cover, and gave it a shot. But I never got into the story--I couldn't because I was distracted by the lack of polish in the prose.

PAPER VALENTINE, on the other hand, it beautifully written. Yovanoff uses many literary techniques to convey how her protagonist thinks. Here is a synopsis of the story:

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.

That's what the summary from Penguin says. I didn't feel quite the same way. When I first started the story, it reminded me of THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, which is, as you know if you've read it, almost tongue-in-cheek with its melancholy mood. But the more I read, the more I got the feeling that the main character is just really depressed.

I got sick of her whining and moodiness pretty quickly.

But my biggest problem with the book is one that simply can't be ignored. I didn't buy the killer. Not for a minute.


For the entire book, Yovanoff builds up to a police officer (who I will not name) being the killer. But he's not! Even after she ends a chapter near the climax where the officer fixes her with a sociopathic (paraphrasing here) stare, a huge clue to him being the killer, she veers off in a completely different direction. 

And not a good one. 

Good mysteries drop subtle clues along the way as to "who done it." When you read the end, you look back and say, "Of course it was the butler! How come I didn't see that? It was staring me right in the face!"

I guarantee you won't come away from PAPER VALENTINE with that feeling. You'll be blindsided by who the killer really is, scan back through the pages and find nothing, absolutely nothing, incriminating these two boys. 

That ruined the book for me. On Goodreads, I gave the book two stars. One for the prose and one for...being generous, I guess. With so many amazing titles releasing in January, my vote is to not waste your time with this one.


Popular Posts