This is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell

Readers looking for a beautifully written story about love, loss, and the complexities of an individual life should look for This is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell, coming to store shelves on January 30th. Here’s more about the book and my thoughts on this one:

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.

Purcell’s writing is lovely, and through the “love letter” to Chris, you get a real sense for Jessie’s heartache. You come to understand her as a young woman struggling to figure out her future and where she wants to go with her life; you see her struggling with mistakes and difficult decisions and the overwhelming task of growing up.

At the same time, she gets caught up in the mystery surrounding her boyfriend’s disappearance and the consequences of her own actions, both past and present. The story covers life in a small town, and how loyalties and prejudices impact the way people behave. But it also shows that sometimes, we have to accept that no one person is to blame. That people are complex and complicated creatures, and we can’t always understand them.

This is Not a Love Letter is a really beautifully written novel about loss and growing up. That said, it wasn’t quite for me – the story didn’t grab me like I hoped it would, I couldn’t quite connect with the characters, and I felt like the resolution was a little underwhelming. The plot still kept me intrigued enough to see the story through, and it was a quick enough read. I think this is the kind of book you need to be in the right mood for.

This is Not a Love Letter is in stores January 30th.

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