Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff, published by Simon and Schuster on 3rd January 2013
The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor's peaceful suburban community is killing girls.
For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian's ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah's just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn't there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.
With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realises that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life - and it's up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.
I was really looking forward to starting 'Paper Valentine'. The plot sounded intriguing, the cover art looked amazing and I had previously enjoyed Brenna Yovanoff's other books so thought I would love this one too. Sadly, although I liked some aspects of this title, on the whole it didn't live up to my expectations and my interest had tailed off a lot by the end.
The story is about teenager Hannah who is still coming to terms with the death of her best friend Lillian when other girls in her home town of Ludlow start turning up dead. These girls have been murdered and then their bodies left to be found, surrounded by a strange assortment of objects. Hannah has to try and stop the Valentine killer before they claim another victim.
Although the plot sounds fairly straight forward it does have an unusual twist in that Hannah can see Lillian's ghost. This was an interesting dimension to the book, as was the fact that Lillian died because she was anorexic. Hannah is dealing with feelings of both guilt and anger about this. She thinks that she should have done more to try and save her friend but she's also angry that Lillian didn't do more to help herself.
The characters in the book are incredibly well depicted. I enjoyed seeing the close relationship between Hannah and her younger sister Ariel, as well as the romance which develops between Hannah and local boy Finny. He has family problems of his own but their friendship was sweet and real and one of my favourite things about 'Paper Valentine'. Finny has a rough edge to him and doesn't always do the right thing but he has the potential to be so much more if people would just give him a chance.
I found the story quite slow going at times and I have to admit that I was disappointed at the ending which just didn't seem to be entirely plausible. I kept waiting for a proper explanation for the killer's actions and when this failed to materialise I felt a bit short changed. I would still suggest that fans of Brenna Yovanoff's writing give this one a go, particularly if looking for a spooky and unusual read but unfortunately it wasn't for me.