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Monday, January 1, 2018

This Is Not a Love Letter | Book Review

This Is Not a Love Letter

Written by: Kim Purcell
Number of pages: 368

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Published January 30th, 2018
Read in January 2018

Summary According to Goodreads

One week. That’s all Jessie said. A one-week break to get some perspective before graduation, before she and her boyfriend Chris, would have to make all the big, scary decisions about their future - decisions they had been fighting about for weeks. 

Then, Chris vanishes. The police think he’s run away, but Jessie doesn’t believe it. Chris is popular and good-looking, about to head off to college on a full-ride baseball scholarship. And he disappeared while going for a run along the river - the same place where some boys from the rival high school beat him up just three weeks ago. Chris is one of the only black kids in a depressed paper mill town, and Jessie is terrified of what might have happened. 

As the police are spurred into reluctant action, Jessie speaks up about the harassment Chris kept quiet about and the danger he could be in. But there are people in Jessie’s town who don’t like the story she tells, who are infuriated by the idea that a boy like Chris would be a target of violence. They smear Chris’ character and Jessie begins receiving frightening threats. 

Every Friday since they started dating, Chris has written Jessie a love letter. Now Jessie is writing Chris a letter of her own to tell him everything that’s happening while he’s gone. As Jessie searches for answers, she must face her fears, her guilt, and a past more complicated than she would like to admit. 

My Thoughts

I received an e-book copy of this book in exchange for a review, but that does not influence my opinion on the novel. 

Although the title foreshadows that this will not be a romantic story, I went into this novel expecting a contemporary romance - but it hit so much harder than that. There are so many important themes covered in this novel, including but not limited to; racism, mental disorders, family dynamic, and friendship. I felt as though each of these was dealt with head-on and compassionately, however at times I felt that it was taking over the overall suspense of the novel. It was evident that the main focus of this story was the background of Jessie, and the relationship everyone in this town had to each other, and less about a potential kidnapping/murder of Chris. 

In browsing other reviews, I’ve seen comments talking about the lack of character building and description, but I feel it was written well enough when considering this entire novel is written as a journal. Our main character Jessie is writing letters to her missing boyfriend, who knows all of these people she references, so why bother adding personality details or physical traits? In my opinion adding that would have taken the reader farther out of the character’s shoes. 

I could not give this novel a perfect five-star rating, as I had some issues with the end conclusions. There were some things left unresolved, for example we never found out who was leaving her threatening calls and that was something I was curious about. I also would have liked more discussion on what some of the characters motives were, and to have seen the ending resolve a little bit slower. There was so much intensity built up that the revelation could have been much bigger and better than it was, but I also think that the way it was done was still okay. 

Overall, I thought this was a very powerful, painful, and thought-provoking read. I felt Jessie’s pain, and her manic episodes wondering what happened to Chris, and she brought so much life and energy (both positive and negative) into her letters. I was on the edge of my seat, and couldn’t put this novel down until I knew what happened. It is such a realistic story that I think is able to reach all reader’s through it’s biggest question of “what could I have done differently?” 

I recommend this novel to anyone interested in realistic young adult stories that deal with heavier topics, and I will be purchasing my own physical copy upon its release!

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