Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Published: January 2013 by Razorbill
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 realizes 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.
Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.
This is such an important read. The synopsis does not do the story justice at all, and I think for that reason it is often overlooked when we are discussing the great and powerful stories of our generation.
Paper Valentine takes us on a journey through the dark side of human nature. Yes, as discussed in the synopsis there is a killer running rampant and of course that is terrifying. The most terrifying part of this novel? The demons Lillian was facing that resulted in her tragic death. Lillian wasn’t murdered. She wasn’t in an accident. Lillian battled her own demons. Her mind told her she wasn’t good enough, and so she lived in a way that her mind deemed appropriate.
Lillian wasn’t enough. So, she began starving herself. The classic downward of spiral of eating disorders. It begins initially as the voice of self consciousness. Dictating ourselves to lose a bit of weight. Then we will be pretty. Then people will like us – maybe, people will even love us. Then, we feel control over the food we intake. As things plummet around us due to our own self hatred. While everything else is crazy, that control we feel is a saving grace. That is until it becomes out of our control. What once was meant to lose a little weight, or to make us feel a bit better in the midst of chaos – now has it’s hold.
This is what happened to Lillian. Slowly she slipped away and her self hatred became stronger than she was. She became the eating disorder, she felt it defined her as much as the colour of her hair or her voice.
Once we give in to that voice. Telling us we are not enough. It stays with us forever. Even when we beat the ED, in times of distress that voice still lingers. Telling us not to have those calories, telling us to purge. It’s horribly sad, beyond sad really.
This is the important focus of the novel. It can save a life. We see how broken everyone is in the aftermath of life without Lillian. We see how her sickness not only ate away at her body, it ate away at the soul of everyone whom loved her. It is a real reality check.
We may hate our reflection in the mirror. We may think we are obese. Hideous. Unloveable.
That’s not the truth.
We are loved. And we love. We just need to learn to love ourselves. This is the message I take away. It’s not a cautionary tale about eating disorders. It is an ugly truth that many of us endure in our lifetimes weaved into a storyline.
You may have your own Lillian in your life. You may be Lillian…
We are all important. We all matter. We can all beat that voice. We just have to let ourselves live long enough to overcome it. Allow ourselves some grace. Forgiveness.
Thank you Paper Valentine, for being my voice of reason. My voice of comfort. To overpower my demons persuading me to once again lose myself in this dark world. I never want to be Lillian. Thank you, with your words, I know I never will be.