Paper Valentine – Brenna Yovanoff
Paper Valentine is the second book of Brenna Yovanoff I´ve read. She is a fantastic writer. The first was The Space Between which you can read about here.
Teenager Hannah lives in the town of Ludlow where they are in the middle of an extremely warm July. For Hannah the heat is only one of her problems. Her best friend Lilian, sick of anorexia, died 6 months previously after having starved herself to death. The group of friends where Lilian was the de-facto “leader” has never been the same and Hannah just wants everything to go back to being the way they were. At the same time she knows that nothing will ever be the same. One of the reasons for this is that Lilian keeps hanging around, haunting her.
And then there are the murders. Someone in the small community is killing girls and Lilian keeps nagging Hannah to investigate them. And she does, with the help of Lilian and the ghosts of the dead girls she is instrumental in solving the murders. This might seem a bit too easy; a teenage girl just happens to solve the murder mystery that the towns police were unable to solve? But reading it didn´t really bother me. Hannah´s mind is always racing, always thinking, connecting things,
I liked that this was not an “issues book”. The horrible illness that her friend Lilian had, the fact that she died of it was written in a very real, down to earth and matter of fact way. Yes it was an important part of the story but it was never the most important thing. Lilian is no mild, wise ghost, she is harsh and bitter and sarcastic and tries to explain what her illness was to her. When Hannah asks Lilian why she was so weird about food the ghost replies:
“It was a place to put the awful stuff. A box for everything about myself that I didn´t like”.
I learned something about anorexia; that it is sometimes referred to by it´s victims as “Ana”. Lilian however, not wanting to be like everybody else, decides to call it Trevor. Only once does Lilian refer to what she was suffering from as an illness.
Some of my favorite parts of the book were between Hannah and Finny. They´ve gone to the same school their entire lives, lived in the same area. They know each other – and at the same time don´t know each other at all. Spending time together they don´t say all that much but what they do say is important and filled with meaning. Hannah herself thinks of the difference between spending time with Finny versus how things usually are with her friends. With them there is always talking
…sometimes when I talk all I´m really doing is filling up the silence.
There´s a connection there though and they are both drawn to the other, seeing something in the other that not many others do. Finn suffers quite a lot from peoples preconceived notions about him. Hanna reflects:
…his hair and his clothes, his disciplinary record, his academic record, and his size. But mostly they´re acting that way because he pends hours alone in the park and is strange and quiet and all the things that Lilian said. All the ways he´s not just exactly like everyone else.
Murder mystery, ghost story, loss of friendship, anorexia, being haunted, the subtle romance. These are themes you can find in this enchanting little book.