Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Hannah has a serious problem.  She is being haunted by the ghost of her dead best friend, Lillian.  She doesn't know why she's there, or what to do.  And then someone in Hannah's quite little town begins killing girls.  Lillian pushes Hannah to find out who is behind the murders, sending Hannah far outside her comfort zone.

This was a creepy murder mystery.  Hannah is the girl who always looks happy and sweet.  In her hand-made vintage dresses and her pasted on smile, Hannah tries to convince herself that everything is fine.  Of course, everything is not fine.  Even if Lillian weren't haunting her, things wouldn't be fine.  It's never come right out and said, but Hannah seems to feel guilty about Lillian's death.  Lillian was anorexic, and slowly starved to death.  Hannah knew.  It's never gone into detail, but it seems Lillian managed to avoid treatment essentially the entire time.  Hannah knew and could have gotten her help.

Now, Lillian never leaves Hannah alone.  But it isn't the real Lillian, and having her there is not comforting, only frightening and a burden.  It becomes harder and harder for Hannah to pretend.  Then young girls start being murdered, and there's no way to act like everything is going to be just fine.  Lillian encourages her, but Hannah herself feels herself drawn toward the dead girls and begins trying to find a connection between the girls that were murdered.

Hannah is also drawn to Finny Boone, a boy with a poor reputation, and certainly not the kind of boy a girl like Hannah would be seen with.  But Finny seems to be able to see Hannah's sadness and confusion under her smiles and pretty clothes, and seems willing to take the time to find the true her.  Even with all the terribly things happening around her, Hannah is able to begin finding herself, which includes shaking off the expectations of others.

It's never made clear why exactly Lillian was able to stay, or why Hannah was able to see and communicate with ghosts.  I guess it wasn't necessary to the story.  It's just something that happened.

This is a great pick for high school students looking for something more edgy than a supernatural romance or a realistic fiction book that deals with serious issues.  In terms of the mystery, there weren't really any clues to try and figure out who the murder was yourself, it wasn't that kind of mystery.  The focus was more on Hannah trying to find herself.
Paper Valentine will be available January 8, 2013.

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