In the middle of a one week break to gain some perspective before graduation, Jessie learns that her boyfriend Chris has gone missing.
But everything’s not as cut and dry as an obvious kidnapping because Jessie and Chris have been arguing over big decisions about their future, and Jessie eventually decides that they need to take a short break, something that Chris was torn over about.
She meant for them to get back together by the end of it, but when Chris vanishes, Jessie learns that things might not have been so easy on Chris as it was on her. The police think he’s vanished, a runaway, but Jessie thinks a darker shade of foul play was involved.
Chris disappeared when going on a run by the river, the same place where he was once jumped by some boys from the rival high school. As one of the only black kids in town, Chris is a bigger target and Jessie is scared about what might have happened to him.
Through the power of social media, Jessie spurs the police into reluctant action, speaking out about Chris. Yet there are people who don’t like what she’s saying and Jessie begins to receive frightening threats as Chris’ character is smeared.
When they were dating, Chris wrote Jessie a love letter every Friday, but now it’s Jessie’s time to write her own letter to Chris as she faces her fears, guilt, and a past she doesn’t want to open up.
Read the official summary here.
Trigger warning for suicide and self harm.
This Is Not a Love Letter deals with a lot of serious topics from racism to teenage love.
I think Purcell goes about these topics very well, dealing with the racism against Chris, one of the only black boys in the town, by showing the stark reality of what’s happening while also not making him into a martyr.
I enjoyed how she portrays these topics to the reader, weaving it along with the storyline.
It made for a very thought-provoking plot and novel composition, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as it was paced well enough that I wasn’t completely overwhelmed while also not super bored by uneventfulness.
The narrative follows along with Jessie as she tries to get to the bottom of the conflict and discover what happened to her boyfriend. It’s an interesting plot and keeps the reader satisfied as new clues are dropped and future events are foreshadowed well.
I absolutely adored the storyline of finding Chris; trying to figure out the mystery of what happened to him was super intriguing and I was kept on the edge of my seat until most of the pieces were put together.
But I had a few issues with Jessie. From an author’s standpoint, she’s the best narrator choice for the novel. But I had some issues with how her own storyline was portrayed.
Jessie is an unreliable narrator, blurred by her emotions a lot of the time as she’s distraught over what might have happened to Chris. She can be hormonal and annoying and sometimes made the narrative less enjoyable to read because of her irrationality at times.
I don’t mind reading untrustworthy narrators, but if this is the case, I want them to have a more defined character arc and their own growth as the story progresses.
If this story was supposed to be about Chris, I feel like making Jessie have less personality and emotional stake would have helped put the spotlight on him.
But since it seemed to be angled at the stories of both Jessie and Chris, I feel like the focus on Jessie faded away for a large portion.
A lot of the novel was less introspective and more of Jessie recalling good memories she had with Chris, rather than reflecting on the memories and coming to realizations. I found that Jessie’s own character growth wasn’t emphasized as much as Chris’ story and we lost focus on Jessie as it was overshadowed by the search for Chris.
I would have liked to see a larger focus on Jessie’s character development as the plot developed which would have added a little more depth instead of Jessie being almost forced to come to certain conclusions about herself, or doing so in a short burst near the end.
I definitely enjoyed This Is Not a Love Letter as it was a very though provoking novel about Chris’ disappearance, but I was looking for a little more on Jessie’s side of the narrative. Overall, I would definitely recommend this to readers looking for stories similar to The Hate U Give and other novels dealing with more serious topics.
Thank you to Disney Hyperion and NetGalley for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!
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