This Is Not a Love Letter is an interesting YA novel. It follows Jessie, a girl about to graduate high school whose boyfriend just went missing. When Chris went missing, he and Jessie were on a break, a week-long break she requested to get some perspective about their futures. Chris went missing while he was running on a path by a river, and Jessie is almost sure it has something to do with the boys who assaulted him near the same river recently. In their small town, Chris is one of the few black boys and Jessie (who is white) is terrified something horrible has happened to him. As she speaks out, things become increasingly murkier and increasingly dangerous for Jessie. As Jessie deals with Chris’s disappearance, she decides to write him a letter to describe what’s happening while he’s gone, as he’s written her love letters every Friday since they’ve been together.
I liked this book, but I have some complicated feelings about it. The epistolary style works very well to tell the story, and I thought it was a great way to read it. Jessie, being a teenager dealing with big stuff, doesn’t always make the best choices in her handling of the situation, but that’s to be expected and it’s really great to see everything through her eyes. She also has a lot on her plate, in addition to Chris’s disappearance and it’s interesting to see how she handles (or doesn’t handle) everything.
This book also tackles some big issues, from mental health to racism. I felt like it did some of these well, and others not as well. I feel like the mental health issues dealt with were realistic and handled with sensitivity. It was more subtly woven through the story at times than the racism aspect, and I felt like it was skillfully done. On the other hand, I feel like the racism issues were handled a lot more bluntly, and I felt like it mainly touched the surface of a lot of the issues, but the fact that they are presented is important. I also liked how Jessie took time to confront her own prejudices and thoughts at times throughout the book, and I felt like that was very valuable.
This book was a hard book to put down. I really cared deeply about what happened to Chris, and I felt for Jessie and the people in their lives as they dealt with this horrible situation. I had a lot of anger throughout the book, and I also had a lot of tears. If you’re in the mood for a mystery with heart, I do recommend this book.
Note: I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
What YA mysteries have you loved?? Let me know in the comments!