Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Release date: January 8th 2013
Hardcover, 306 pages
The Book Depository
It’s no secret that I am an obsessive person. I like my world in neat little drawers, where everything has its own place and its own name and there’s no clutter, confusion, or a single unnecessary item. (Hi, my name is Maja and I’m a control freak. Can we still be friends?) Therefore, my huge love for Brenna Yovanoff’s books is a bit of a surprise, even to me. She’s an author whose books can’t be properly placed or categorized. Not only is Paper Valentine cross-genre, it combines so many different elements that it’s almost impossible to assign a label to it. It’s infuriating and beautiful at the same time. Oh, and also… it’s kind of magical.
Paper Valentine is a book about a serial killer. It is a book about the loss of a best friend to a long and horrifying illness. It’s about a girl trying to understand herself a bit better. It is about ghosts, hauntings and very strange Ouija boards. It’s about a strange romance between two even stranger kids. But most of all, it’s about things said, and those left unsaid.
The quiet, subtle romance was exactly what I expected from one of my favorite authors. There was this lovely, undeniable, magical understanding between Hannah and Finny that wasn’t flashy or instantaneous at all. And really, who wouldn’t like a guy named Finny Boone? Only Brenna Yovanoff can come up with a name like that and really pull it off – she is the reigning queen of weird and unforgettable character names. Finny himself is just as memorable, though. The only other character who spoke so little but left such an impression also came from Yovanoff’s magical factory. She has a talent for writing silent types and I love her for it.
Hannah takes quiet to a whole new level. Her mind is always racing, but her mouth stays firmly shut. I liked that about her, her ability to keep her thoughts to herself even when other people would probably explode, even when the silence would become awkward and stiff. For his part, Finny isn’t exactly talkative either. His silences are eloquent, but they’re silences nevertheless. To anyone other than Hannah, he’s just a weird, problematic guy, not someone a mother would want to see her precious daughter date, but to Hannah, he is exactly the kind of person she can relate to, talk to, even through a long stretch of silence. When so few words are spoken, a lot of things get communicated differently and the reader ends up with much more useful things.
”It’s not okay,” I whisper, and I don’t just mean his cigarette burns or his hand, but all the catastrophes and the tragedies and the bad, brutal things that happen all the time and everything that makes Finny so quiet. Every awful thing that’s ever happened in the world.
I love that Yovanoff wrote about a real issue without turning Paper Valentine into an Issue Book. I dread issue books, they make me feel claustrophobic and depressed, but Yovanoff wrote about anorexia without making me feel suffocated or overwhelmed. She even went so far as to try and explain the hows and whys of it, but she never stepped onto a podium and started preaching. It was just a natural part of the story. Yes, Hannah had a best friend and yes, that best friend died of anorexia six months prior to the beginning of the story, but the illness itself never took center stage, and neither was it taken lightly or disrespectfully.
Then I cross to the bed and sink down onto the rug, pulling the sheet with me. On the floor, with the sheet over me, I sit with my knees pulled up and my head on my arms. My heart is beating in huge spasms, but under the sheet is safe, like I’m the ghost and Lillian is the real live girl.
Even though I’m pretty good at guessing these things, I remained clueless about the serial killer until the very last minute. Looking back, there were quite a few little warning signs, but I got so caught up in Yovanoff’s gorgeous writing and Finny Boone’s wide shoulders that I failed to notice any of them.
While Paper Valentine doesn’t quite reach the literary and emotional heights of The Space Between, it’s still a book you’ll be proud to own. I know I am.