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.
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Razorbill(info grabbed from GoodReads)
I was really expecting to love Brenna Yovanoff’s writing and the blurb for Paper Valentine made it one of my most anticipated releases for 2013. So with a heavy heart I admit that this book was a complete let down. I was expecting creepiness, great atmosphere, but what I got was boring high school melodrama and just …drabness -- as if the whole world was painted gray. I kept reading out of stubbornness and it didn’t ever pay off.
My biggest issue was that the mystery (which from the blurb and title is supposedly what this book is about) didn’t really even begin until after page 200. I mean, the book is called Paper Valentine, and the serial killer in the book is called the Valentine Killer because he leaves hand crafted paper valentines with his victims. So how is that not what the book is about? Until Hannah starts looking in the deaths in her community, I was bored out of my mind and almost put the book down. There were all these details and attempts at character building that made me think: “Okay, maybe it will all be tied in at the end.”
But no. Just no. These irrelevant details stayed irrelevant.
There are so many things going on within the story that aren’t really ever explained or explored. For example, it is the hottest July on record, but what does that have to do with anything? Nothing ever comes about from that; it’s never even mentioned if the bodies of the victims started smelling quicker than normal because of the heat. It didn’t add to anything. The birds are dying and The End. The birds have nothing to do with anything. What is sad is these are the two most extreme examples and are on the blurb on the back of the book, but there are even more issues like this throughout.
Looking back now, I feel that the book was kind of a hot mess that couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. The first third was high school contemporary, filled with details that were not important and not even interesting. The second third was romance, which seemed to have a lot of unnecessary back story and not enough romantic development. The last third is where all the mystery happened. It finally starts to pick up, but still fell flat for me. I felt that there should have been more. More intrigue, more excitement, more everything! Even the plot twist at the end was just not enough.
I think Paper Valentine suffers from trying to do too many things at once and not succeeding in any of them. The characters were not incredibly interesting, the mystery was blah, and just too much was going on in relation to nothing. I feel bad writing such a negative review. Really. But I honestly think this book is not up to the same quality as other books in the same genre. I do plan on reading Brenna Yovanoff’s other novels, as I have heard great things, but I cannot recommend Paper Valentine to anyone.
On the bright side, it has a gorgeous cover.
Final Thought: 12 out of 36 toadstools
This review is also posted on GoodReads