Review Blog

Mar 11 2013

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

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Simon and Schuster, 2013.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Ghosts. Mystery. Hannah is haunted by the ghost of her best friend, Lillian, who starved herself to death. Lillian's ghost is insisting that Hannah investigate the murders of young girls, who are left lying in the park, surrounded by toys and glittering objects and with a paper valentine left on the scene of the crime. But Hannah is desperately trying to come to grips with her friend's death and can't help thinking about Finny Boone, the big bad boy who is unexpectedly kind.
Yovanoff pulls off a clever mix of looking at the issues of eating disorders and self perception, combined with a ghost story and a rivetting murder mystery. Binding it all together is the narrative of Hannah, who gives the reader an in-depth look at the machinations of girls who want to belong to a group that is leading the way for everyone and the reasons that Lillian stopped eating. At the same time the tension builds up as the city becomes hotter, birds fall out of the sky and people begin to live in fear of another murder.
Hannah begins to concentrate on solving the murders as a way of redemption, urged on by the chilling ghost Lillian. She couldn't stop her best friend from starving herself to death but perhaps she could stop more young girls from being murdered. Yovanoff builds up the suspense here as clues seem to point to Finny, the boy who could be a budding delinquent, but who Hannah is drawn to. Her suspicions of him could have devastating results. Then there are other people who could be suspects too and Hannah has to put together a myriad of clues before the dramatic finale.
I really liked the way that Yovanoff explored the themes of self esteem, of how people mask their feelings, of love and death, all with a good mystery and ghost story thrown in. I will be sure to pick up books by Brenna Yovanoff in the future.
Pat Pledger

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