Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Apr 1, 2013

Hannah is haunted.  Her best friend Lillian—still thin and wasted from the anorexia that killed her—follows Hannah around, commenting on her fake friends, her occasionally grisly job processing police photographs, and especially Finny Boone, a seemingly dangerous boy with a kind heart that Hannah can’t help but be drawn to.

Lillian is especially fascinated by the string of recent murders around town; dead girls are being found in the local park holding homemade paper hearts, surrounded by delicate arrangements of cheap toys, tacky decorations and throwaway party favors.  Together, the friends try to piece together the identity of the killer as they also come to terms with Lillian’s death and as Hannah tastes love for the first time.

Paper Valentine is so many things: it’s a ghost story, a love story, a friendship story—while also being a murder mystery, a summer break tale, and a portrait of teenage suburban life.  This is Yovanoff’s third novel, and she deals with the issue of anorexia with a wise and sympathetic hand, without resorting to turning the story into an issue novel and without turning Lillian into either a victim or a villain.  She is a complex, loyal, dark, delightful thing—much like Paper Valentine itself.

Reviewed by Library Staff