This is Not a Love Letter is not entirely truthful in its title; though it isn’t a love letter per se, it is most definitely NOT lacking in love, nor the many other emotions the reader is certain to feel while reading this book.
When we first meet Jessie, the protagonist of the novel, she is just about to hear some devastating news; her boyfriend, Chris, has gone missing, and it seems there are reasons to worry about his whereabouts. We travel with Jessie through her physical search for Chris, and also through her search into the past for clues as to what may have happened. Kim Purcell tells a tale of heartbreak and hope, love and loss, and, more than anything, created real characters for whom we both laugh and cry.
As an adult reader, I can feel Jessie’s pain as clearly as though it’s my own, and her questions about her past and her future remind me of my own adolescence. For the young adult readers in our classrooms, Jessie can be a source of comfort, as students see that they are not alone in trying to navigate the world around them and the multi-faceted relationships in their lives. Jessie’s story is both simple and complex, making it very relatable. This book may be just right for the reader who is interested in a story where race and/or mental health struggles are issues of concern.
You will wish that you could climb into the pages to redirect these characters on where they are about to go wrong, but be prepared for the heaviness of plot and atmosphere. This is Not a Love Letter is a read that will make you want to keep your tissues handy.
Noella Jeong is a grade 9 teacher, mother of 4, and avid reader. She loves to explore young adult fiction as a way to connect with her students, and to also help guide them in their choices.