This Is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell is YA novel that grips you from the beginning and breaks your heart along the way. Jessie wakes up to the news that her boyfriend is missing. Convinced he did not run away, she endeavors to find him. Written in the form of a letter to her boyfriend, Chris, she details her efforts to find him along with her unspoken feelings, regrets, and memories.
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.
Jessie was a character that the reader could relate to. She had her flaws but strengths as well. Her character is so well written, her hope becomes yours. The mystery behind Chris’ disappearance is also well done. I began to have my suspicions of the outcome because of well-placed clues, but they are not overt.
There were aspects of the plot that seemed overdone. The fact that Chris was an African American in a predominantly white town seemed to be an issue for Jessie only. The racial struggles that the book’s summary talk about are more forced into the story line.
The biggest downside to this novel is the language and the sexual references. The book has a wealth of wonderful messages, but to discuss these would be to give away the plot. My recommendation would be, if you are considering letting your teen read this novel, to read it before and discuss with them along the way.