Hannah Wagnor is haunted by a ghost. Not just any ghost, though. Hannah is haunted by her recently deceased best friend, Lillian, the queen bee of Hannah’s small social circle. As hard as it is for Hannah to get over Lillian’s death, it’s even harder when Lillian won’t stop following her around! How is she supposed to move on with her life with a cold-as-ice reminder staring her down every time she is alone?
"Where one might expect Lillian to try to piece together various clues to the summer murders, Hannah seems too pristine, too sweet and too boringly nice to attempt something so dark. But there’s more to Hannah than meets the eye. PAPER VALENTINE is all about her realizing just that."
Admittedly, even without Lillian’s ghost, Hannah’s life has become pretty wretched in recent months. What started as just another year in the average city of Ludlow has culminated in a freakish and terrifying summer. An incredible heat wave has the city and its denizens in its boiling throes. More troubling, though, is that young girls keep being found in the city’s public park --- dead.
Of course, that’s not how Lillian died, but it may be why she’s still haunting Hannah. Hannah watched as her friend wasted away from a healthy, beautiful social leader to a living corpse. Although she knew Lillian had an eating disorder, Hannah couldn’t imagine that it would get to the point where her friend would die. Now she is left to cope with her loss, and confront the guilt she feels at not having been able to stop her friend before it was too late.
Hannah’s discomfort is greatly increased by the existence of Finny Boone, a quiet delinquent-type that she can’t seem to keep her mind --- or eyes --- off of. Though they have never had much interaction, he always seems to be lurking in the background. Unlike Lillian’s ghost, however, Hannah kind of likes Finny’s inexplicable presence. She knows that he’s all wrong for her, but after the past year, it seems like all wrong might finally make things right.
As Hannah delves deeper into the murders, she feels more closely connected to the victims. So close, in fact, that she starts to wonder whether Lillian is the only one haunting her. Her increasing involvement has another side effect, too. Even though she knows she’s approaching something terrifying, as she gets closer and closer to finding out what happened to the girls, Hannah can’t help feeling braver as well. Could she really be the one meant to uncover the truth? And does she have the strength to confront it if there’s no one to protect her when she does?
Teenage drama, the crumbling social structure of growing up and a sociopath on the loose? Sounds promising enough. But Brenna Yovanoff belies the reader’s expectations by making Hannah seem like a rather fragile character. Where one might expect Lillian to try to piece together various clues to the summer murders, Hannah seems too pristine, too sweet and too boringly nice to attempt something so dark. But there’s more to Hannah than meets the eye. PAPER VALENTINE is all about her realizing just that.
Reviewed by Rebecca Kilberg on January 30, 2013