Review: This Is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell


Title: This Is Not a Love Letter
Author: Kim Purcell
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Hardcover, 368 Pages
Published January 2018


Summary: 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.

My review for this book was originally posted on TeenReads.com.

I received an advanced copy of This Is Not a Love Letter in exchange for an honest review, and I'm really glad I did, because I absolutely loved this story. Even though it was heartbreaking and emotional and definitely tough to read at times, it took me on an emotional journey that I knew I needed to experience, partially to understand Jessie's pain, and partially to become even more appreciative of the people that are already in my life.

As the summary explains, Jessie's boyfriend, Chris, suddenly goes missing in the middle of the night. While it seems like not many people are concerned about where he went, she knows that something happened to him. It becomes even harder to get people to care because of the fact that Chris is black in a predominantly white neighborhood, so there is a lot of speculation that the probably got himself into trouble and that there was no way he could be the victim of a hate crime. But Jessie knows better, and she's determined to find him, even if it feels like her entire world is crumbling apart in the process.

One of the most interesting things about this book was the way that it was addressed to Chris himself, through the method of informal love letters. There wasn't a "Dear Diary" sort of format, but Jessie is addressing Chris throughout the entire story, as if she was narrating to him instead of to a third-party reader. I feel like that's part of what made this book all the more intense for me, because her pain and her longing and her desperation for him to be okay was all the more obvious. It made the emotions sucker punch me directly in the stomach, at times so intense that I had to stop and take a few deep breaths because this book was hitting me that intensely. That's not something that I usually experience when I'm reading, so that's how I knew that Kim Purcell was an excellent writer, with the way she was so easily able to manifest physical emotions during my reading experience. 

My favorite character in this book is, perhaps ironically, Chris. As Jessie is recounting all of the memories that she's having with him, and all of the things she wished she appreciated more in the actual moment, it made me pretty much start sobbing openly. He seems so sweet and caring and attentive, the perfect guy, who everyone seemed to love and appreciate. His gentle nature with Jessie and everyone else in his life really made him out to be a stand-up guy, and throughout the entire story I found myself gripping the pages, hoping and praying that everything would turn out alright, because a guy as amazing as Chris was someone I wanted to see turn up okay.

Reading this book really struck me deeply because as I was witnessing Jessie's pain and anguish, it made me think of my own boyfriend, and how lost I would be if I woke up one day and suddenly all of the familiar, everyday parts of my life were suddenly gone. It made my chest ache with a pain that I haven't ever stopped to think about before, so my poor boyfriend ended up getting a million texts while I was reading this book because seeing Jessie's heartbreak reminded me to never take a single moment for granted, and to never do things you'd regret without apologizing or taking them back. Seeing her run through her mind at all of the awful or stupid things she'd done to Chris in the past, wishing so desperately that she could tell him she loved him one more time, really struck me deeply and made me all the more determined to make sure my boyfriend (as well as my other family and friends) never has a single doubt about how much he is loved and appreciated.

(Spoilers in this paragraph, please skip to the next one if you haven't read yet!) I was absolutely not expecting the book to pan out the way that it did, even though I did see some of the warning signs in the beginning. I was moreso shocked by the whole Johnson thing, and how he got away with being such a crappy human being, and how the police basically neglected to charge him for any of the other things that he managed to fess up to, nor did they dig deeper and try to prove his alibi was false. While I know that he wasn't the one that killed Chris, it was still a tough pill to swallow, seeing the things he did do go unpunished. But that ending...it absolutely broke me, even though there were also a few notes of hope sprinkled throughout. It still made me unbearably sad.

Overall, I absolutely loved This Is Not a Love Letter. If you're able to stomach a super emotional, super deep book that will definitely break your heart and make you cry, then this is definitely the one for you. Kim Purcell is an excellent writer that knows how to tug at your heartstrings and make those tears fall. Her writing had me so hooked that I managed to finish this entire 350+ page book in less than a day, because I didn't want to put it down. I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next!




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