This Is Not a Love Letter

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jan 2018

Member Reviews

Easily in my Top 3 books read in 2017. 
Thank you. Thank you for writing this book. It was beautifully told, in a paper airplane style letter, from Jessie our protagonist to her boyfriend Chris.
Jessie and Chris are the only interracial couple, because Chris is the only African American male in their small town. After an argument that leaves the couple on a week long break, Chris goes missing after going on a jog. The story slowly unfolds amidst racist comments, derogatory phone calls, close knit friendships, family members with mental illness, and the unraveling of Chris' disappearance. 
The way this book is written, i was instantly transported into being able to feel the way Jessie feels. It was easy to feel the desperation in her being. I was Jessie. Beautifully told. My heart will never recover.
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The writing in this book is superb--from the first pages, instead of telling you the story in some over-the-top, grab-your-attention way, the author drops you in the middle of the action. Jessie's boyfriend Chris has gone missing, and we follow her like a fly on the wall in the hours that follow: in the chaos, the finger-pointing, the immediate sense that everyone has something to hide.

The story delves deep into teen drama in a way that is very accurate: the harassment of a black boy in a predominantly white town, the girl backstabbing, the complexity of teen relationships. Jessie feels guilty in a way we can all relate too, as she looks back at her relationship with Chris and what she might've done different. The love letter angle didn't do much for me, but I could see teen readers enjoying it.

In the end, the book delves deep into mental illness in a very teen-centric way--somewhat dramatically, but I think very appropriately so considering how the story ends. I spend a lot of time with teens who deal with mental illness, and I'd highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with this type of tragedy, which is difficult to understand.
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*If you are prone to anger when discussing racism, go away now. I do not believe in victimhood, and this review has a HUGE, unappologic rant on that in the Cons section. I’m not trying to start something. I should be able to express my opinions, whether you like them or not. I needed to bring up these points since some of the content rubbed me the wrong way and I needed to explain why.

Summary

Personal Blurb
Jessi will do anything to get Chris back in this high-stake mystery with a concentration on racial tension and hidden secrets.

Characters
Jessi & Chris are madly in love, but when they go on a break to get some perspective, Chris goes missing.

Conflict
Jessi doesn’t think the police are trying hard enough to find Chris, so she must take matters into her own hands, even if it means walking into a den of lions.

Cons
•	Black saint. Chris is the perfect Black guy. He doesn’t let racism bother him. He answers stupid, racist questions, he resists violence at all costs, he makes excellent grades, and he has an athletic scholarship to college. He loves his sister and his white girlfriend.
Ok, special snowflake. I can see this becoming a trend. White authors get attacked when they perpetuated the angry Black person stereotype, which leads to them writing all Black people as saints. There has got to be a balance. I understand no one wants to be called racist, but Black people have flaws too, and it’s okay to show that. When you don’t, you’re making them a special snowflake and inadvertently telling all the other Black people that they should be like this guy. It’s the same thing with disability porn.
•	Woke white girl. Of course, us white people need to learn about racism through a white girl in an interracial relationship. She will show us how woke she is and feel immense guilt when she says something that could be construed as racist, when it would not be if she said it to anyone else.

Hello, can we stop with the double standard. If something is bad, it’s bad all around, and if it’s not, the people offended by it love to claim their victimhood.

EVERYONE has been oppressed, called names, treated unfairly, been left out of something because of something they cannot change about themselves. It sucks. No one is denying that. But that does not mean that everyone in a group different than your own (in any diverse category) needs to tiptoe around you and hold their breath because you’re so sensitive you’ll break if they breathe too hard. Grow up. Every individual is responsible for their own actions regardless of obstacles in front of them and judgements cast. Don’t enable victimhood by accepting guilt for things you are not responsible for. It’s fine to point out things people might not initial see as racist because they have no context. That needs to be done to some level so that we can all understand and respect one another. However, when you avoid anything and everything that could possibly offend someone, you’re left with nothing but fear and an anxiety attack waiting to happen.

People need to learn how to find their own strength and stop relying on everyone else to be strong for them. But of course, I’m white, married to a man, and mostly able, so I get no opinion. If you’re fuming with anger right now, please go listen to Francina Simone say basically the same thing. I freaking love her. She is a person of color and she resist victimhood and tells it straight.
•	Jessi assumes everything bad that happens to Chris stims from racism. However, I did like the revelation we got in the end. Perhaps the author was trying to communicate to both sides: making white folks more aware of unintentional racism and POC folks that racism isn’t the reason for all of their problems? This would show that Jessi has some white guilt but that she needs to get over that because she herself isn’t racist and she isn’t responsible for an entire nations wrong doings against POCs.

It’s hard to decide since this is written in 1st person. Yet Chris’s mother has some words for Jessi I really appreciated. Also, this story was inspired by the disappearance of the author’s close friend. Maybe this drawls heavily from that experience and that’s the revelation we’re supposed to get. Other signs of this are Steph’s crappy home life and Jessi’s white trash status. AKA privilege has a lot more to do with class than color.

Potentially Offensive Content
Strong language & sexual content (straight couple has sex)

Pros
•	Complex characters. At the beginning of the book, Chris was saint-like, perfect in every way. It was irking me. However, we finally got some flaws toward the end. It was a clever way to show that love is blind. We keep ourselves from noticing things we don’t want to see, and we hold those we love up on a pedestal.
•	Interracial romance. Through Jessi’s thoughts, we learn how people’s view of Jessi has changed since she started dating a Black guy. Basically, they now view her in a more sexual way. We also learn a bit about racial tension through Jessi.
•	Plot & Story & Romance. I was engaged the entire time. I loved the way she talked to Chris in her head and her ADD brain (more on that below) had me squealing. I loved their romance, though it was troubling toward the end. It seemed a bit abusive with Chris’s desperation. Other times the romance literally mimicked my own. There was this one part where he took her hand and warmed it up. Then she told him the other hand felt lonely, so he warmed it up. I say “the other one’s jealous” to my husband. Like if he kisses me on my left cheek, I’ll say that so he’ll kiss me on the right cheek as well. I was in the passenger seat when I read that section and laughed so hard my husband wanted to know why. When I told him they were us and why, he grinned. (My husband looks stoic 80% of the time, so a grin is like a normal person’s laugh for him.)
•	Mental illness rep. How Jessi feels about living with a hoarder mirrors how hoarders feel. They fear letting anyone inside because they’d be embarrassed if others knew, but their stuff continues to pile up because the task of keeping everything organized seems endless when everyone continues to bring crap in or just doesn’t pick up after themselves. I know this from personal experience. Constant fear and isolation is no fun, neither is not being able to see the floor.

We get to see depression as well and how it can be overlooked when you desperately want everything to be fine.

Quote
“You do not have that power. You’re just a girl. That’s it. […] Who are you to say you are that important?”

Quality
Did it have adequate representation?
Jessi is from a low-income family with divorced parents. Her mom is a hoarder. Her boyfriend is Black, and his family is Jehovah Witnesses. Michael is gay. Characters in this book also deal with depression.

Did it make me think?
It made me think about how racial tension is written in books and if there’s a such thing as a perfect balance.

What was the writing style like?
ADD brain. I mean that in the best way. I have ADD. Not sure if they author does, but the book is in 1st person, and the way the character thinks is not neurotypical. Intentional or not, this definitely worked for me.

Are the characters now my all-time favorites?
No. The guy was too saint-like, and the girl assumed racism was the cause of everything bad in the world. It reeked of white shame, and I can’t stand that or people who feel that way. It was at the maximum level I could tolerate. It wasn’t as heavy as I’ve seen in people on Twitter, but it was teetering that edge. I want to learn about the Black experience, but not in a way that shames me for being born white.

Was the plot cleverly written?
Yes.

Did I enjoy reading it?
Yes.

Triggers?
Suicide

Format?
e-arc
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This is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell brings out many emotions, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it all yet. Not entirely anyway. I was impatient through the beginning. The story is told from inside the head of Jessie. It's a running monologue of everything she is saying, doing, and feeling. This is good and bad, as it became very tedious at times, but provided much needed info and insight.  

I began to see Jessie's mental ramblings as something that could be cathartic to her as a person, all of us readers, and maybe even the writer herself. Jesse is telling Chris everything. Everything she hasn't told him up until now that she feels he should know. Apologies, confessions, explanations, stories, etc. She says it's not a love letter. Personally, I think she's in denial about that. To me, whether she's actually writing it or talking it all out in her head, a love letter of sorts is exactly what it felt like. I wondered if maybe that was the author's purpose for writing such a story, because that kind of catharsis makes complete sense, especially when you don't know if you're ever going to see the person again. It's freeing and healing. 

The second half and, most importantly, the ending was very well done. I grew very attached to Jessie, and Chris, and many of the other characters. I was rooting for them. By the end, I was crying so hard, my husband got concerned. I have to say, with everything we knew and didn't know through the progression of this story, I was still expecting a different ending. "Hoping" for a different ending would be the better word, I think. When you read this, have a box of tissues handy.
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This is Not a Love Letter, is not what I would classify as a romance, but there is love in the story. It's  got moments that tug at your heart strings, and others that just break your heart. Jessie and Chris's story is unique. It's one of those books that are real and original. I liked Jessie's character, but there was something about her 'voice'I couldn't connect to while reading. Still, if you enjoy YA with a mild mystery/suspence with some love thrown in, and you don't mind all the letters throughout the book, this is one I'd recommend to you.
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Let me start by saying this is a Netgalley review, I received it for free for an honest review. 

3.5 Stars

This letter style book was not my favorite, it had its moments.  The letters are written by Jessie to her boyfriend Chris who has gone missing after a late-night run.  In this letters, we get the history and background on the relationship and friendships surrounding the couple.  Jessie searches for answers as to where her boyfriend who seemed to have it all could have gone. The pressure placed on the town by Jessie has consequences and it leads to some devastating discoveries.  It’s a story about race, mental illness and the hardships of being young and in love.  

I didn’t love it for one reason, I would have given it 4 solid stars if it had focused on mental illness just a bit more.  I personally would have likes more closure on that part, but I understand that not everyone gets that.  So, in a way it is realistic.  I appreciate the author focusing on the heavy issues we see today, but I just don’t think this book was for me.
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This is a hard book to review. I did not like the style of the writing- Jessie was writing letters to her (ex) boyfriend, Chris. But I did not like the letter format, or that she kept saying "you" since she was talking to Chris. However, Jessie was a great character with a fully developed personality, so she was easy to relate to. The book also did a great job discussing really tough issues like class, race and mental health. While I did not enjoy this book, I know that many of the students will relate to this and cry along with Jessie as they struggle to determine what happened to Chris and why.
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I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  From the publisher - 

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.

When I first started reading this book my main thought was "so dramatic for a teenager book" but when I read more I realized that teens are ALL ABOUT THE DRAMA. Putting myself in that mind set (I am a fully-grown middle aged woman) was hard at first but once I observed some girls in my library being all over-the-top I came to think that they would LOVE THIS BOOK.  I found it very well written and engrossing and was almost sad when it was over.  Keep writing, Kim Purcell, you have a great future ahead of you|
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The main character is a Caucasian girl in a relationship with an African American boy, in a town of very few African Americans. The book addresses the negative attention their bi-racial relationship receives as well as the extra racial attention the African American receives. The book is written from the point of view of the girlfriend writing a letter to her missing boyfriend, explaining everything that is going on and how much she loves and misses him. 

I found it hard to believe that the narrator was able to write down all the dialogue that she had or that she had the time to write all of these letters. I would have prefer to have letters within the storyline of the book instead of all of it being a letter. 

Overall I was not impressed with the book. I appreciated the ending since it was not what I expected out of a young adult contemporary. I would definitely give this author another chance.
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Thanks to Hyperion and NetGalley for allowing me to read the ARC of This Is Not a Love Letter, by Kim Purcell. Seniors Jessie and Chris look forward to graduating and starting their new college lives, but when Chris disappears while jogging by the river, the whole town is abuzz. Was his disappearance a lovers’s quarrel, racial attack against Chris, one of the few Black boys in school, or a secret Chris has been keeping from everyone? You won’t put this book down once you start reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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Jessie’s boyfriend, Chris, has gone missing shortly before high school graduation, and now she is documenting everything that is happening as she waits to find out where he is. The book is written as though she is speaking directly to him, so she is always saying things like “you would have liked (this)” or “your mom (did this)” or “it reminded me of when we (did this).” As a result, it wasn’t long before I felt like I knew both of them really well because the author did such an excellent job of describing Chris’s personality and attitudes through Jessie’s eyes and her anecdotes about their relationship. 

Jessie herself is somewhat crude and tough. Her dad is out of the picture and her mom is a hoarder, making Jessie ashamed of her home and frustrated with her life. She shoots from the hip and doesn’t mince words. Chris is a gentle soul who recently moved into town – a straight-A student, a gifted baseball player, and a pacifist. He’s a good influence on Jessie, giving her a sense of worth and direction that she didn’t have before he came into her life. But he’s also a black kid from Brooklyn who doesn’t really fit into this all-white paper mill town in the Pacific Northwest, and he has already dealt with bullying from some of the locals. Many possibilities exist for why he has gone missing.

The book also has several strong peripheral characters who are well drawn and add to the story – both his friends and hers. I never knew for sure what was going to happen, and I really came to care about both Chris and Jessie. Being the same age as they are, I found myself thinking I would like to know them personally, which only happens when a writer does a great job of bringing characters alive. While the plot did not wow me as much, I really enjoyed the characters and the interesting way in which the story was told.
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This book deals with young love and the loss that may come with it, tackling a tough subject in a very believable and engaging way.  The story is advanced through the "not a love" letter that Jessie is writing to her missing boyfriend Chris while she is waiting for him to return.  She is given support by her closest friends throughout, while dealing with  negative reactions to her suggestion that Chris may have gone missing as a result of some people  who would do him harm because he is a black teen in a mostly white town.  Finally the police get actively involved and eventually the mystery is solved and Jessie has to learn to live with her new reality.  I would recommend this book wholeheartedly to teens looking for realistic fiction involving relationships, love, and loss.
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Review to come at end of jan  with cross posted link
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3.5 stars. If you read the synopsis and the title. this isn't a love letter. It is Jessie writing journal entries to her boyfriend, Chris who is missing. Although they were technically on a break when he went missing. I enjoyed the author's writing and the style in which this book was written, but felt that there were some times throughout the book that could have been explained a bit more in depth. Jessie starts writing to Chris right after she finds out he is missing and documents what is going on and what they are doing to find him. This book is sad and it deals with some sensitive topics such as mental illness, race and bullying. The ending of the book was also done really well. Overall, I enjoyed the book, especially the style in which it was written and it certainly deals with some heavy, but very important topics. 

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced reading copy of this book.
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This is Not a Love Letter- 

Wow, I wish it didn’t end that way, but I am glad it did. It was hard to read the last few pages because of all the tears. This book had everything from love to mystery to suspense to action to remorse and, finally to hope. 
Jessie and Chris are in their senior year of high school and are madly in love. Until an argument over their futures leads Jessie to suggest that they take a break; not to break up, just to spend some time mulling things over. Then one night, Chris disappears. His friend Josh breaks the news to Jessie and the search for Chris is on. From there, we read Jessie’s “journal entries” that catalog the details of the search and her thoughts and feelings, regrets and memories that could give her any kind of clue to find him. Her entries make the narrative a suspenseful, emotional mystery that is easy to get sucked into. Each new revelation or hint brings a feeling of hopefulness that Chris will be waiting on the next page. 
Purcell explores the depths of mental illness through Jessie’s eyes to suggest that even the best, most warm and friendly people in the world are battling internal struggles that don’t always surface. Chris’ character is painted in a way that makes you kind of fall in love with him the same way Jessie does. He is kind and generous. He doesn’t believe in violence even though he is the subject of racial injustice. He is a straight A student and a super athlete. He got recruited to play baseball in college. He dreams big. And he pushes Jessie to dream, for what she calls, the first time. How could a wonderful man such as Chris be suffering so greatly and how could Jessie not see it? Love is blind in that way. And mental illness wears many faces. 
It is difficult to watch Jessie blame herself for the role in his disappearance. The guilt she puts on herself for all that she didn’t say, for every inaction, for every time his behavior raised her eyebrow but she shrugged it off, for not being able to help him in the way he helped her. It’s incredibly heartbreaking but incredibly real. 
After the reality of Chris’ situation becomes clear, Purcell takes the narrative on an upswing when it is hard to imagine there could be one; she ends with hope. Through Jessie’s detailing of the search for Chris, we realize, in retrospect, how much she has grown and how much Chris has helped her to do so. Their relationship inspired her to go to college, to see the world, to believe that she is more, and to choose to live. She is able to build a better relationship with her agoraphobic, pack-rat mother whom she was once embarrassed of. She is able to forgive people she once held intense grudges over. She is able to make friends she never thought she’d have. She chooses to give her life meaning as an ode to the meaning Chris put in her life.
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It may not be a love letter per se, but it's definitely a story of love in its many forms. Heart wrenching yet humorous and real, Purcell writes a tale of teenage life that will not soon be forgotten. Timely and timeless, the subjects of love, friendship, growth and mental illness are tackled realistically and with heart.
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I received this from NetGalley to review. I give it a solid 3.75 stars. The narrator is writing sort of a journal to her boyfriend, who is missing. The story goes back and forth in time, which I liked. I wish it had delved a little more with mental illness because it’s very much a part of the story. Instead, some serious mental illness is tied up in a pretty bow at the end. This is a well written take on what happens to the people who love someone in the wake of a tragedy.
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Laugh, cry, get angry, and then cry some more. Kim Purcell delivers a heartbreaking tale that is at times both funny and tragic.  This complex teen story of relationships, love, and loss can hit a little too close to home with its realistic dialogue and unique group of characters.  This title would be a good addition for your older teen readers.
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Telling the story as a letter was very engaging.  I believe this style will hold readers' attention.  The storyline itself is a little redundant with a lot of other current titles, but I think the writing style and letter format could keep teen readers interested.
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Teenage love is hard, no doubt.  Surely this is the person you'll be with for the rest of your life, right?  And there's no possible way you can live without them, is there?

For young Jessie, it all becomes a bit overwhelming.  Sure, she loves Chris with all her heart.  And she can't imagine her life without him.  But when things start moving a bit too fast, getting a bit too permanent, she decides to slow it down a bit.  Just a break, she tells, him.  Just one week.  A chance to take a step back and breath for a minute.  

And then Chris disappears. And she wants him back.  But it's too late.  She makes all kinds of promises to herself and everyone else.  If only he'll come home, things will be different.  She didn't really want a break.  She's sorry, she misses him, things will be better than ever.  If only it were that simple.
This story is all kinds of things at once.  It's a love story, sure.  But it's also a mystery. Exactly what did happen to Chris?  It's also a great take on teenage issues.  A great read!
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