Friday, February 1, 2013

Review: Paper Valentine

Paper ValentineAuthor: Brenna Yovanoff
Release date: January 8th 2013
Publisher: Razorbill
Hardcover, 306 pages
Buy: Amazon
        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.


  1. While I've read conflicting reviews for this book, I can appreciate quiet characters who say a lot in just a few words or in a significant look. And I totally get you on the obsessively neat part -- even my students know I'm a neat freak!

  2. "But most of all, it’s about things said, and those left unsaid."

    YES! That is absolutely what I loved about this book as well Maja! I loved that so much of the story was reading in between the lines, I felt like I had to work a bit to discover what takes this book from simple murder mystery to something else entirely, and it felt so rewarding when I put in that extra effort to do so. This is a gorgeous review, and you summed up beautifully everything about this book that impressed me. Can't wait for more from Brenna!

  3. Wow! I have only read good reviews about the author's books an d they sound so awesome! Love the complexity of them and the cross genres. Definitely unique and also love your quotes!
    Great review, Maja
    I am a control freak, too. Most girls are. Even my bookshelf is arranged in alphabetic order :D
    Your reader,

  4. First of congrats on 1000 followers :) Keep going girl :)

    Oh I'm not a control freak but I have my days. For example I can't work on a computer if the desktop is full of icons. No way! About the book, honestly I didn't doubt about its awesomeness. When you say that the book is beautiful and magical you have me. :)
    I can't wait to read this.
    Great review Maja :)

  5. I was both relieved and pleased that this didn't quite become an issue book. Anorexia is up there with cancer for me, but I completely agree that Yovanoff's approach never bordered on overwhelming. The plot let me down slightly, I have to admit, but the characters and their relationships more than made up for that.

    Lovely review, Maja! I'm glad this author hasn't let you down yet. :)

  6. I've only read Yovanoff's debut, The Replacement, but I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than I expected, so it's great to hear that this book was just as good. A lot of what you describe sounds amazing, and are almost exactly the reasons I enjoyed Yovanoff's writing in the first place. It's so great to know that she's consistent.

  7. I've never read a book by this author, and I had a few doubts, but to hear she's one of your favourite authors has encouraged me to pick up one of her books soon! :)

    Control freak = definitely can be friends.

    The fact that it doesn't fit into a genre could annoy me, but I think the novel has so much to offer especially after your review and the lots of different elements along with the subtleness of the issue.

    I love your review, Maja! :)

  8. Wow, this book sounds amazing! I've already read some fantastic reviews for this book, but your review definitely stands out. :D I still desperately need to meet this Finny Boone, and the silent Hannah. I have yet to read Yovanoff's quirky, lyrical writing style, it seems amazing. And the way she sneakily weaves in issues without preaching about it is just phenomenal. I am so ready to pick this one up! Gorgeous review, Maja. :)

  9. I still need to read a Space Between.

    This sounds so good and I'm moving it up on my wishlist. Oh I love the name Finny Bone and I also love the fact that it can be a sort of issue book without being preachy. Sounds like a delicate balance and I'm happy to hear it was achieved. Darn... I need to get this one!

  10. I always find that I love books that I struggle to categorize, because there's usually so much imagination and creativity that goes into these oddball outsiders. They don't play by the rules and never have cookie cutter plots. I am SO excited to read this one. I love Brenna's way with words, and her voice, and now I'm even more anxious to get started on Paper Valentine. Beautiful review! :-)

  11. I love how you prefaced this review, Maja. It's always such a pleasant surprise to find that novels that you don't usually enjoy CAN actually work, and I'm thrilled that that was the case with you here. I feel like Paper Valentine isn't for me and as one who hasn't read any of Brenna's novels yet, I think I'll start with The Space Between first. It seems to be her most popular work and your recommendations rarely (if ever!) go wrong! :) Amazing review, dear! :D

  12. Lovely review! I haven't read anything by this author yet, but I really want to check this out. It sounds fantastic. I'm glad you got caught up in all aspects of the novel that the serial killer portion was more of a surprise. Those are always some of the best!


  13. Oh YAY! I LOVE her writing and have read all her previous books. I just got this one too so I'm so happy to read such a fantastic review! I really hope I can read it REALLY soon. I think she might have a signing here soon with some other authors but I might be remembering wrong.

  14. I have never read anything by this author- but I am in LOVE with the cover and your review was excellent. Must read this!

  15. "aper 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" ----- I want my own copy! thanks for another cool review, Maja :D


  16. Gorgeous review, Maja! Well-written and smartly spoken, as always. I actually did a WOW post for this a few months back and it's out already?! Yay! I haven't read any of Brenna's books, but a lot of people seem to speak fondly of her writing, so I'm definitely planning on giving them a go. So happy you loved this one too, Maja! Brilliant review. :)

  17. I love mysteries and Brenna's writing was quite nice in The Space Between, so I think I might like this. I've been wanting to read this for a while, and your review has encouraged me even more. Lovely review, my dear. :)

  18. I really enjoyed this book as well. Gave it 4 stars like you! I definitely enjoyed the sweet, simple romance as well! Im proud to own a copy as well! Lovely review Maja!
    - Farah @ MajiBookshelf

  19. Maja! This review is absolutely gorgeous. I haven't read any of Brenna's work yet, but I did just buy this one the other day and will be reading it shortly. I love what you said about her being able to write about issues without making it an issue book--that is HUGE for me...I hate that too. I also love the idea of all of the dark elements. Very excited now, thanks!

  20. You've made me so happy that I requested this, despite never having read anything by Brenna before! I love books that are a little bit different, and don't quite fit into genres

  21. I don't read many mysteries (just the classics really), but I do want to branch out. And your review has made me so curious! I'm the same way about needing everything neatly organized and categorized, but I do think it's such a pleasure to find something you can really enjoy despite it not being what you thought it would be, or hoped that you'd like. Wonderful review!

  22. Soooo excited to read this one! Great review! :)


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