In her chilling third novel, Yovanoff (The Space Between) combines supernatural horrors with others that are all too human. Hannah Wagnor is. Dear Brenna Yovanoff: I read your debut novel, The Replacement, a couple years ago and loved it. I put your sophomore effort, The Space. Review: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff. Been waiting a long time for this book. Finally got to read it:) It was different from what I thought it.

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When I went to ALA inone of the numerous ARCs I picked up and took home, in a haze of disbelief that people would want to give me free books just because I was in training to be a librarian, was Yovanoff’s debut novel The Replacement. The Penguin publicist I spoke to hyped paepr big time, I yovsnoff because it was part of their Breathless Reads collection.

Something I’ve learned about myself since is that I don’t tend to be a huge fan of the most-hyped books put into those collections, though they do tend to do very well, they just are not my thing. Such was the case with The Replacement, which showed promise in the gothic tone and writing, but mostly fell flat. When I was sent a review copy of Paper Valentine, I really did not get that excited, but I did resolve to give Yovanoff another try, and I am so glad that I did, because she has grown a lot as a writer since her debut novel.

Brennz since Lillian’s death from anorexia, Hannah has been haunted by her best friend. Not by the memory of Lillian, no, but by her ghost. Lillian follows her around, giving her advice or criticizing her behavior, or both at the same time. Only Hannah can see Lillian, and, after six months of this, Hannah’s pretty resigned to it, even though it can be an inconvenience and having ghost Lillian around isn’t the same as having the real Lillian there.

Paper Valentine follows a lot of yovamoff plot lines, weaving them together expertly into a powerful novel. The first arc deals with friendship, with peer pressure, and with self-acceptance. Hannah and Lillian were incredibly close, best friends forever.

They were also the most popular girls in school, making their own style and setting the trends. With Lillian gone, stuck with the rest of their group, now dominated by Angelie, Hannah’s coming to realize that, much as she loved her, Lillian wasn’t a very nice person all the time and that she could be a bad influence on Hannah.

Watching Hannah come into her own as a person, both accepting the parts of herself wholly unlike Hannah and incorporating a bit of Hannah’s advice made me so glad for her. Hannah needed a bit of Lillian’s gumption, enough that she could tell off Angelie for being horrible and rude, but also needed to laper Hannah-enough to not get too hung up on being popular.

Family, though a more minor thread certainly, still plays a crucial role in Paper Valentine. The parents are mostly absent, though the mother does ground Hannah for sneaking out and insist on meeting a boy before Hannah can go out with him.

Paper Valentine

The relationship being dissected here is that of the two sisters, Hannah and Ariel. Though Ariel annoys her, understandably so, the two clearly have so much love for one another. Hannah can see how much Ariel tries to protect her and gets what Hannah is going through more than their mother and step-father do. I found their relationship touching, and loved that there was much more focus upon it than usual.

The book gets much creepier than just Lillian’s ghost, however. Girls are being murdered, left in the park, heads bashed in, surrounded by the trappings of childhood, toys and candy.

Next to each body is a paper heart. Needless to say Hannah will become wrapped up in the murders. Yovanoff does suspense and eerie settings very well, and there were some scenes that straight up freaked me out. What made Paper Valentine special, though, was how Hannah reacts when she finds herself in danger: Unlike some heroines, she doesn’t spend her doom-filled moments thinking of how much she loves some boy, but of ways to escape and of her sister and her dead best friend.


As with when she fought back against bossy Angelie, Hannah held her own and refused to be cowed, and that just made me respect her and root for her so much. Admittedly, I was quite skeptical of the romance at first, because I feared it was going straight down stereotype highway. See, Hannah has a secret crush on one of the bad boys. When we first see him, he’s wearing a wife beater, even.

He dyes his hair white-blonde with Clorox, has tattoos, and a missing pinkie. Early on, he shoplifts.

I mean, not really swoon material. He never really does become the kind of guy I would swoon over, but Yovanoff makes him work, and I totally ended up shipping Hannah and Finny, who made me think a bit of Hanna and Caleb from Pretty Little Liars.

Also, their romance reminded me a bit of Pushing the Limits too, only with less focus on romance, no pet names, and a murder mystery. Yovanoff gives the reader a little bit of everything, and, after my lackluster first experience, I now plan to read The Space Between, her second novel, as well as whatever she has coming ykvanoff.

What a wonderful lesson in the importance of not writing an author off based on one book, especially a debut, because they have so much room to grow.

As other reviewers have said, readers in search of a murder mystery should not pick up Paper Valentine in hopes of an enthralling chase to unmask a serial killer. Instead, Paper Valentine is about a girl and a ghost and relationships and imperfect people.

Everything was subtle, kept beneath the surface, and, in my opinion, masterfully done. This entire novel is approached with a fairly light hand, and the story was allowed to grow and shape organically. Authorial presence in this book is kept to a minimum. Lillian died six months ago after several years of being anorexic. Her selfishness, her need for control, her obsession with perfection, her snobbishness.

But in some way, Hannah still clings to Lillian, yovankff neither of the girls is able to let the other go. Her parents and younger sister are understandably freaked out, and so is Hannah in a less significant way. Primarily, Hannah and Lillian take on something of an obsession brennw the murders, and that leads them into trouble. Trouble, in this case, takes the form of Finny Boone, a trouble youth with the scars and foster care experience to prove it.

Initially, Hannah is taken aback by her attraction for Finny, but not for long.

He glances over, squinting at me. First to her friends, who are jealous and petty and snooty. As the different relationships in her life come into sharp relief, Hannah is forced to think about things and people differently.

Eventually, of course, nrenna serial killer catches up with Hannah and Lillian and Finny. But it all comes out right in the end, of course.

Everyone safe and sound, happy and well. But Hannah still has to learn to come to terms pzper Lillian. Who she was, who she is as a ghost, and what their relationship meant. Paper Valentine is a book that really defies categorization. It is its own entity, separate from anything else either the paranormal or mystery genres have to offer. Now that I have read it, I can say without a doubt that Brenna Yovanof knows papr to give you that fearful tingle that travels slowly up your spine until you want to run through your house and turn on every light!


I really enjoyed the thriller aspect of this story, and no matter how hard I tried, I could yovwnoff figure out the identity of the killer. I think I went through 5 different suspects before the bernna was revealed! I never saw that ending coming, and that was what made this so great! I also loved the psychological side of this book. Plus, you have a serial killer who stages his scenes like something out of a deranged toy store and the creep factor just zooms paler new levels.

Perhaps my favorite part of the story was watching Hannah and Finny fall for each other. However, the waves of doubt that seem to ripple through their relationship make them all the more relatable and tender to read about. I loved that Brenna gave us a sweet romance to offset the brutality of the murders and the creepiness of the hauntings. The only issue I had with it and this is what makes me go with 4 stars instead of 5 is that there are some plot holes that are left unexplained.

For example, Hannah is being haunted by Lillian, uovanoff ghost of her best friend.

Paper Valentine | Brenna Yovanoff

Is this the only paranormal element that exists in her world? Or could there be something else? How the ghosts appear is never explained, and Hannah never even questions the how or why of it.

I just find that a bit strange. Furthermore, it never explains why Hannah is the only one who can see the ghosts. I would really have liked to know if it is a power she has or if ghosts can reveal themselves to chosen people or what not. That was never explained and it still leaves me wondering about it now. Overall, this was a great read and it was definitely something different in the YA genre at least for me.

I have not read many ya thrillers, so the psychological warfare and the murders were new to me. I really did enjoy it, though, and I look forward to more from Brenna and this particular sub-genre in ya.

After reading that book yovanodf and looking over that GORGEOUS cover, doesn’t it get you super excited to read this gripping thriller of a mystery that’s about a killer stalking the streets of Ludlow and there is one girl who is able to fix yovanoff all with the help of her ghostly friends and her boyfriend who everyone deems the killer prematurely?

Well that’s what I wanted too, but not what I got. I was really disappointed. This book reads more like a contemporary rather than a mystery. I had myself all ready to be kept up late at night due to being scared, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Starting with the writing, I won’t say I disliked it, but I won’t say I liked it either. It seemed to read more like a MG novel than a YA novel. But ironically, it was a MG novel that I would actually have enjoyed. While reading it I was able to picture everything that was happening.

From the suffocating heat in Ludlow and the quirky, fun pre-teen that Ariel was. Her descriptions are fun and easy to read. As for the plot, I was a little lost. As I said, I was expecting a full throttle gripping mystery and instead I got a contemporary romance. Then as I was reading, it seemed to just get more and more confusing.

I was able to pick out what happened to Lillian, but after that, I found myself only wanting to read it because I wanted to know for sure who the killer was. It just seemed that nothing was happening and the mystery took the back burner to the love interest.