Title: This is Not a Love Letter
Author: Kim Purcell
Genre: YA contemporary
Release Date: January 30th, 2018
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Source: ARC received from Publisher
My rating: 5 stars
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 to 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’s 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.
Okay, so, this book really had a little bit of everything in it. And while it started off a bit slow, after a short bit, it got to the point where I couldn’t put it down. In fact the way the story was slow makes a lot of sense, because it is spent with the characters, waiting on any scrap of news or clue as to what happened to the missing boy, Chris. The author kept me guessing for most of the way through the book, something that I really enjoy when reading. Every character in this book had their own cross to bear, their own sins – their own demons. Just like in real life, there usually aren’t going to be cut and dried “bad guys”. That doesn’t mean that the people in this book that are the bad guys don’t do terrible things. They do, and while you may feel some sympathy for them after certain facts come to life, they still do things that make them the bad guys. Not only that, there is a character that you probably won’t like. I didn’t. Jessie didn’t. But in the end, along with Jessie, you will realize that maybe that person isn’t quite the horrible person they’ve been made out to be. Maybe they do deserve a little leeway and understanding of their own situation.
As I started out saying, this book touches on so many different topics, very heavy ones as well. Depression, bullying, racism, family issues, and LGBT issues, just to name a few. While reading, I kept imagining who could be responsible, what could possibly have happened to Chris. And even though I knew that with the feel of the book, something bad had probably happened to him, I couldn’t keep myself from imagining what ways he could possibly still be alive, and that in the end we could have an unexpected, highly unlikely, happy ending. When the news that I knew was coming no matter what actually was delivered in the story, tears began streaming down my face. The way the characters were written, the emotions and reactions they had to the news just hit me so hard. I knew it had to be going that way, the more clues and background information that we got. But I kept hoping so hard, even after it was pretty much assured what was coming, that some way, some how, we could get Chris back without any heartache. Because with all the flashbacks and memories of Chris, I kinda fell in love with him, and really wanted the chance to meet him in the present day of this story.
A great story, an author I look forward to reading more from in the future. Definitely a book I want to add to my high school library collection, and one I will recommend when I work at my part-time job at the bookstore.