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.
TW: depression, suicide, racism
This is Not a Love Letter discusses difficult topics such as depression, suicide, and racism as you can see by the trigger warning I have provided. This is not a cute contemporary. If you are looking for something light-hearted, then I do not suggest picking up this book. I went through a whirlwind of emotions while reading this book. I was angry, sad, and very anxious while reading. It definitely was a book that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. My hands were sweaty, my heart was racing, and I was breathing erratically. If you do not handle difficult topics well, I definitely would not pick this one up.
Jessie wakes up one morning to pounding on her door. She goes out to find her boyfriend’s best friend Josh outside. He looks terrible; like he hasn’t slept all night. He asks her if she’s heard anything from Chris (her boyfriend.) No, she hasn’t heard a thing. This is when she finds out the devastating news–her boyfriend has been missing since the night before. No one has seen or heard from him since he went for a run.
The book is set up in a unique way. It is written as a series of letters from Jessie to Chris. She is not writing a love letter like he always did for her; she is writing an account of everything that has happened since he has gone missing. At first it was a little difficult to grasp how the book was written, but after a few pages I got the hang of it. I ended up really liking how the book was written as letters by the end.
I didn’t know that I could fall in love with a character that never even speaks, but I did. I felt every emotion that Jessie portrayed to Chris in her letters to him. I fell in love with him just as she did. Reading these letters addressed to a missing person that you can tell she is utterly in love with just broke me. I found myself crying throughout the book multiple times. This was not an easy book to read. I found myself being even more thankful that no one important in my life has ever gone missing. This book was one hundred percent anxiety-inducing. I was going through every emotion that Jessie was as I read her letters.
As I mentioned above, this book explores difficult topics such as depression, suicide, and racism. The depression and suicide part wasn’t really explored too much, just mentioned here and there but never really went into too much detail. I would have liked to see more of the mental health topic. The racism part however, was a huge part of the book. I thought Kim Purcell did a really great job of showing how blacks are discriminated against for no reason at all besides the color of their skin. I really loved that this topic was talked about so much throughout this book. She did a great job at portraying the racism that is found in predominantly white communities.
I just want to add in that this story is personal to the author. At the end of the book she wrote a note saying that she herself has been through a similar situation where a close friend of hers had gone missing. She said the emotions she put into this book were real. I could definitely feel them.
I really loved this book even though it was difficult to read. I just could not put it down. I wanted to know what happened to Chris immediately. I am rating this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley and Kim Purcell for the advanced copy of this book in return for an honest review.