Summary Audio Book Paper Valentine 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.
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Book Review: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
As other reviewers have said, readers in search of a murder mystery should not pick up Paper Valentine in hopes of an enthralling chase to unmask a serial killer. Personally, I came into this with that expectation, and it took a bit of adjustment for me to realize that Yovanoff’s audio story had more to do with people living their lives and going through day-to-day stuff (whilst a serial killer is abroad), than about finding and punishing a murderer. Instead, Paper Valentine is about a girl and a ghost and relationships and imperfect people.
Most of the time I don’t have much trouble picking out what an author’s themes are. I can say, “this audio book is about moving on after grief” or “this audio book is about learning where loyalties lie” or something along those lines. But to be honest, I can’t do that here. For me, Brenna Yovanoff just sat down to write about real people in real situations, and if there were any messages she wanted readers to take away from Paper Valentine, they weren’t obvious or easy to pick out. Everything was subtle, kept beneath the surface, and, in my opinion, masterfully done. This entire novel is approached with a fairly light hand, and the story was allowed to grow and shape organically. Authorial presence in this book is kept to a minimum.
Paper Valentine’s main character, Hannah, is teenager who’s being haunted—literally—by her best friend, Lillian. Lillian died six months ago after several years of being anorexic. And Lillian’s ghost is a projection of all the very worst things about Lillian. Her selfishness, her need for control, her obsession with perfection, her snobbishness. But in some way, Hannah still clings to Lillian, and neither of the girls is able to let the other go.
Aside from the obvious problem with Lillian’s ghost, Hannah’s also dealing with the reality of a serial killer loose in her town, one who targets young girls. Her parents and younger sister are understandably freaked out, and so is Hannah in a less significant way. Primarily, Hannah and Lillian take on something of an obsession with the murders, and that leads them into trouble. Trouble, in this case, takes the form of Finny Boone, a trouble youth with the scars and foster care experience to prove it.
Initially, Hannah is taken aback by her attraction for Finny, but not for long. With him, she finds the voice she’s always kept hidden, and when he tries to break things off, she isn’t afraid to speak out.
“Stop,” I tell him.
He glances over, squinting at me. “What?”
“Stop acting like you need to protect me from yourself.” And I sound angrier than I ever usually sound. “I’m not a victim or a fragile little thing. And maybe there’s dangerous stuff out there, but not you. Okay? I don’t need to be kept safe from you” (pg. 272).
And now that she’s found the courage to do it, Hannah begins talking back. First to her friends, who are jealous and petty and snooty. To them Hannah proves that she won’t be controlled any longer, not the way Lillian controlled her. And Hannah also speaks to her mother, who’s clung so long to an image of what “perfect Hannah” should be that she doesn’t quite know how to deal with Hannah’s grief and confusion.
“For maybe the first time in my life, she is listening to the words I’m saying and not telling me the words she thinks I should use” (pg.241).
As the different relationships in her life come into sharp relief, Hannah is forced to think about things and people differently. She has to learn (to some degree) who she is now that she’s out of Lillian’s shadow, and how to step out of the mold everyone expects her to fit into. Without a doubt, Hannah was a dynamic, well-rounded character, though her growth isn’t immediately obvious.
Eventually, of course, the serial killer catches up with Hannah and Lillian and Finny. The villain gave the obligatory monologue for the reader’s benefit—to recap important plot points without too much difficulty on the author’s part. But it all comes out right in the end, of course. Everyone safe and sound, happy and well. But Hannah still has to learn to come to terms with Lillian. Who she was, who she is as a ghost, and what their relationship meant.
“The idea that a person can be defined by anything so superficial [as sickness] is terrible. […] The simple version isn’t even recognizable when you hold it up against a living, breathing human being. Her ghost will always be so much less of her than the girl I used to see every day” (pg. 256).
Paper Valentine is a book that really defies categorization. It is its own entity, separate from anything else either the paranormal or mystery genres have to offer. Brenna Yovanoff’s storytelling is unique, her prose is engaging, and the way she treats characterization is uncomplicated and straightforward.
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up–Hannah Wagnor is haunted by the ghost of her dead best friend, Lillian. As the summer temperatures heat up, so does Hannah’s love life. Hannah starts dating local bad boy Finny Boone, but something feels off about him. When girls start showing up dead, Hannah worries that the murderer might be Finny or someone he knows. Using her Quality Photo job to sneak a peek at the crime scene photos her boss develops, she discovers that each picture features a girl who has been hit over the head holding a paper valentine in her hand and kids’ toys spread all around the murder scene. Hannah realizes that the deaths are somehow linked to an older murder of a classmate. With the help of the murdered girls’ ghosts, she and Lillian try to solve the case, but the killer is closing in and doesn’t want to be discovered. Can Hannah figure out who the murderer is before she becomes another victim? Caitlin Prennace’s narration of Yovanoff’s tale (Razorbill, 2013) is engaging. Although the characters could have been better developed, their personalities are brought to life through the narrator’s unique voices and intonations. The plot has a few holes in it and the murderer lacks motive, but the narrator’s smooth, expressive transitions will easily draw in listeners. Fans of mysteries peppered with romance will enjoy this audiobook.–Kira Moody, Whitmore Public Library, Salt Lake City, UTα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. –This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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