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This Is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell

Thursday, May 23, 2019

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.

Goodreads Summary

Changes can be both positive or negative, but when you know change is coming in the future it is always scary. Jessie and Chris are in love; Jessie is from a poor white family and Chris is a well-rounded black boy. When Chris doesn't return after a jog Jessie accuses some boys from her predominantly white town of killing him. In the meantime, she writes to him to keep him up to date on what is currently going on; she prays for his return. Unfortunately, not everything is simplistic and what it seems; as the novel wears on, Jessie is confronted with difficult realities and must modulate her reaction to them accordingly. 

Jessie's character fit the theme and the overarching tone of the novel. She came off as a bit of a pathetic defender; it was obvious that she truly loved Chris as much as possible for one in high school. Although we never feel like we truly "meet" Chris, Chris appears as the stereotypical good boy. He's smart, charismatic, handsome, and kind. I never fully connected to the characters, but I didn't mind too much since it felt like the author was trying to get a message across versus making the characters overly easy to relate to. The ending fit what I had suspected and I liked how the author handled several difficult issues (i.e. mental illness). This would be a great read on a long plane ride or  rainy day that would allow for some introspection.

4 Stars

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