Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: Paper Valentine

PAPER VALENTINE
Brenna Yovanoff
Paranormal-ish Young Adult
368 pages
Razorbill
Available January 8th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (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.


MY THOUGHTS
Paper Valentine is a story that from the synopsis sounds like it's going to be a creepy little murder mystery, and though a serial killer does leave his mark on the pages, what we find is a more character-driven story than initially expected. It bears mentioning however that Ms. Yovanoff's approach to strong characterization is slightly different in nature –  rather than taking a chisel in hand and shaping Hannah and Finny from her mind's eye for us she instead gives us a solid block of marble and a rough sketch for reference, and then turns the tools over to us. We're able to see what she's started, with hints of who these characters are placed carefully and with purpose, but ultimately we're given the opportunity to read into everything that's left unsaid, drawing our own conclusions and ultimately having a hand in the crafting of our relationship with them.

Hannah is not a young woman we know all that well by the end of the story, but what we do know of her is intimate and poignant, and in the end, far more perfect than an in-depth character study would have been in this case. In the beginning Hannah is lacking in substance and transparent to our eyes, not because substance isn't there, but rather because we haven't yet been granted access to it. Slowly over the course of the story we learn about Hannah as she learns about herself, the focus of the story more on the person she was when best friend Lillian was alive versus the person she is now after her death, and we both struggle to determine if there is truly a difference between the two or if the real Hannah has been present all along.

Hannah's relationship with Finny is a bit like watching one of those shows on the Discovery Channel about how something is made, knowing that if we just watch closely enough, we'll walk away from this story a bit richer, privileged to have been exposed to something fascinating. Superficially, Finny and Hannah's romance seems extraordinarily quiet and a bit slow, their time together categorized by long silences not a result of sexual tension, but rather because neither quite has a firm grasp on who they are as individuals given they've both been defined by people and factors outside themselves for so long, and before they can fully relate to someone else, they must first figure out how to relate to themselves. Despite the fact that not much is said between them, they communicate beautifully, using the moments in between words to say what the other most needs to hear.

Overall, Paper Valentine is a bit of an unexpected read; those looking for a murder mystery could easily breeze through this book and find a satisfying if not completely unique story, but they would be missing out on what elevates this book from typical to special. This is a story where part of the experience is analyzing all that's not printed on the pages, spending long minutes after reading thinking over every action and thought to see what other meanings we can decipher when we look at the negative space instead of the positive.

Rating: 4/5

58 comments:

  1. Jenny - I love that marble block analogy for the characterization in the novel. How do you come up with that stuff? Heh, brilliant. I'm all for satisfying murder mysteries! But I can't say I will be making it a priority if it's not a particularly special read. Still, I would like to try out Brenna Yovanoff's writing sometime!

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    1. I don't know Aylee, sometimes ridiculous things pop into my head and I just hope they make sense to other people when I put them down on paper ;-) It's kind of 50/50 as to whether I'm successful, I'm glad I was in this case!

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  2. Ah this relation sounds wonderful! But I must admit I wasn't really intruiged by this book until now. and then you make is sound so wonderful!

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    1. I think this book is going to get a wide variety of reactions - those expecting a murder mystery will likely be a bit disappointed since that takes a back seat to Hannah as she's figuring some things out about herself. I really enjoyed it though!

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  3. Glad you enjoyed it! I was really disappointed by this one because I was expecting more murders and mystery rather than romance. I definitely want to check out Brenna's other books, though.

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    1. Yes, I think a lot of people will have that reaction! I kind of liked that it was a bit more introspective on Hannah's part though, thinking about her stuck with me longer than thinking about the serial killer. It definitely threw me off a bit at first though, so I more than understand your reaction!

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  4. I am not sure what to make of it, and I do think it could be worth reading

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  5. Sweet heavens, Jenny, you're giving me an inferiority complex! I am in awe of yur reviewing skills.
    I adore Brenna Yovanoff, her writing is always so gorgeous and atmospheric and if she were a guy, I'd probably ask her to marry me. The Space Between is one of my all-time favorites and I have a feeling this one will be too.
    Loved the analogy, btw, and the review!

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    1. NO INFERIORITY COMPLEXES MAJA! I adore your reviews! I hope you like this one, I just loved how she didn't really tell us all that much about the characters, yet by the end I felt fully connected to them. It's like she puts a thread of connection out there for you and then you just have to decide whether or not you're going to grave on to it and complete the circuit or not:)

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  6. This is a lovely review, Jenny; you have such a beautiful way with words. I first heard of Paper Valentine today and became very interested in this story, so it was great to read your review. Due to your insight, I am still planning on picking up a copy of Paper Valentine when it is released.

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    1. Thank you so much Olivia! I hope you do give it a try, just be prepared for the serial killer aspect to be minor.

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  7. Oh I've had my eye on this book for sometime and so I'm so glad that it provides so much more than a murder mystery book. I have yet to pick up a book by Yovanoff, but the way your review has described her work I can't wait to pick this one up! :)

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    1. I think her style of writing is not going to be for everyone. Her stories tend to be a bit slower - but I like that because it gives me time to think about what's happening:)

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  8. I have been seeing this book and I wondered how it was. Thanks for the great review.

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    1. Glad the review gave you a little insight!

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  9. It bears mentioning however that Ms. Yovanoff's approach to strong characterization is slightly different in nature – rather than taking a chisel in hand and shaping Hannah and Finny from her mind's eye for us she instead gives us a solid block of marble and a rough sketch for reference, and then turns the tools over to us. - WHAT???? Jenny! Your writing should not me limited to writing reviews. Girl, you must pick that pen up and start writing a book of your own. I'd loooove to read it! Your writing style is a mix of Laini Taylor and *I really hope I'm not disappointing you with this* Jane Austen:) And I completely adore both of these authors!

    As for the book, I'm so excited for this one and your review just got me all the more anxious. I love the cover. I love the synopsis. I love the concept. I really hope I'll end up loving this book as well:)

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    1. THANK YOU SIIRI!!! *dies of happiness* That's an astounding compliment:) I have no plans to write a book as of right now, I'm content to read and write reviews, but if I ever do, I'll be sure and send it your way:)

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  10. Interesting. I think I also thought that this was a murder mystery type novel, but knowing it's more character-driven makes me a bit more inclined to give it a go.

    Thanks for the review, Jenny! I wasn't too sure about this one, but you've given me a much clearer picture.

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    1. Yay, I'm glad! I hope you give it a try Irish:)

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  11. Great review. I am definitely reading this book! Thanks.

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    1. Woo hoo! *fingers crossed you like it*

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  12. I am INTRIGUED by this book, Jenny. I love a good mystery and your description of the characterization makes me curious to see it for myself.

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    1. I really liked the quiet tone of this book, I couldn't help but think about the characters as I waited for a new development in the case:)

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  13. I probably would have been one of those who breezed through the book, looking for the mystery because I would have picked it up with preconceived notions. But now when I pick it up, I'll be ready!

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    1. There were a few times when I was all "shouldn't something new in the case be happening?" But once I reached the end and looked back, I really liked that she wrote it the way she did:)

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  14. How do you write these reviews?? OMG...you are so talented Jenny!! That said...I love the idea thhat there is more introspection and character building than murder.

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    1. *blushes* Thank you so much Melissa! I was really pleased with Hannah's introspection in this book, it was more interesting than the case for me.

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  15. Oh I was so curious about this one and now I want it. I do like a good murder mystery and I also know I could sell my mom on it (I'm determined to get her to do a lot of reading... *evil laugh*). Plus, I like the author's writing. Double win.

    Btw, I LOVE what you said about the negative space. Can I hug your writing ability??

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    1. Yes, yes you can. It will hug you back ;-) AND YAY MOM! Sell her Melissa, sell her! That sounded awkward, but I think you know what I mean:)

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  16. Well I am ticked that I got turned down for this one. Lame! I really want to check out this author. I loved that analogy in there about how the relationship was like watching the Discovery channel's How it is Made...I am a nerd but I always stop and am fascinated by that show. I always love the complex books that make you think. Sigh guess I will just have to wait and buy this one. Shakes fist...ahh well I needed another ARC like I need another hole in the head....hey you know I should consider getting my nose pierced....ha ha jk....

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    1. I'm a nerd too and as much as I think I should find that show boring, I get addicted to it whenever it's on. I need to know how they make Twizzlers or rocking horses, or hammers. I can't explain it, but I need to know!

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  17. Aaaa! I have this! I just skimmed your last paragraph and your rating, b/c I don't want to know yet. I'll be reading this soon! : )

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    1. Ooo can't wait to see what you think Pam!

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  18. This is such a well written review, Jenny! Paper Valentine sounds like so much more than just a mystery. It's been so long since I've read a good mystery...one that I could really analyze. If the serial killer piece isn't a major focus (that kind of thing freaks me out!), then I am definitely going to have to read it! I will be adding this one to my TBR list.

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    1. Thank you Christina! And the murder mystery is not the main focus, it's more about Hannah and who she and how her best friends life and death have affected her. The murders are more a backdrop for her personal growth, which sounds weird, but I thought it worked really well:)

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  19. Oh, this one sounds deliciously creepy! I can't wait to read it for myself!

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  20. Great review, Jenny! The Replacement didn't work for me, but this one sounds so much more up my street. Looking forward to it!

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    1. I had some trouble with The Replacement as well, but I liked this one much better:)

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  21. I REALLY need to pick up a book by this author already! I've heard so many good things about her previous books and this one has been getting so much hype too, so I'm thrilled you loved it! I'm off to add this to my list of Brenna's novels to read! ;)

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    1. Of the two I've read of hers, this one was the more successful one. She's got a very distinct style to her books that won't work for everyone, but in this case everything came together perfectly for me:)

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  22. This sounds like a very intriguing story. I've never heard of the book or author before but I've been getting into mysteries more and more so I'll definitely be adding this to my TBR.

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    1. I hope you give this book a try, it was much more than I expected it to be:)

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  23. This book has been hyped up to the max, but I think your review is the first that I've actually read about Paper Valentine! I'm so so glad you enjoyed this book, Jenny. The character development sounds really powerful in this particular story. I can't wait to read about Hannah and Finny's subtle romantic relationship! BEAUTIFUL review, Jenny!

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    1. I loved Finny and Hannah, but it's funny because not that much really happens between them. It's hard to explain, but for all that they don't interact that often in the story, I still felt like plenty was said you know?

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  24. I'm glad you liked it because I pre-ordered this book based on the cover... I am weak like that. ;)

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    1. I'm weak like that too Kate, there's no shame ;-)

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  25. Do you think the fact that there are long silences between the characters - that they're not sure who they are as individuals is purposeful on the author's part or more that the author hasn't fully figured out their characters?

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    1. No, I think she had an idea of who she wanted them to be but left enough open for us to figure out if we agree with her:) I think if she hadn't figured them out, the whole story would have been a mess!

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  26. I have wanted to read this just because I have loved her other books. She really is a talented writer. I wasn't exactly sure what to think of this one though and your description of the characters has me very curious. She's coming here for a signing in Feb., I believe so maybe I'll pick this one up then. She sure hits the jackpot for covers, that's for sure!

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    1. Lucky you! I would love to meet her:) I hope you like this one as much as I did Candace!

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  27. I actually haven't read any of Yovanoff's but they have such interesting covers that I can't help but love. I love that you're able to learn more about the characters as they learn more about themselves. I don't know if you've read any of her other books, Jenny, so would you suggest starting with this one?

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  28. I've been hearing some interesting things about this book and I'm much more intrigued by it now that I've read your reviews. (I really need to stop reading them because they are way too convincing, Jenny!)

    I really like that the book is character-driven and it seems like the main character is very interesting. It's good to know that Paper Valentine is more than just a murder mystery.
    Thank you for the beautiful review, Jenny! :)

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  29. As always, you have dumbfounded me with your exquisitely written review, Jenny. :) Paper Valentine is a book I anticipate (the premise = perfection and I've heard that the author's writing is one to envy) so your four star rating is a definite plus sign. I quite enjoy a good unexpected murder mystery and character-driven plots, too. I'm so thrilled you were a fan of this one, Jenny! Have you read the author's other novels?

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  30. I am so curious now, I've been in a darker, mystery kinda mood lately..and this is more than i expected!

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