Once again, I stand by my claim that some of the most compelling premises can be found in the YA section. This book by British author Pitcher consists entirely of letters written by a teenage girl in England to a man on death row in Texas. Their correspondence is one-sided because “Zoe” doesn’t want to give her real name or address. Not because she’s afraid of Stuart, a convicted murderer, but because the letters are her confession of her own part in a deadly crime.
Zoe tells Stuart that she is responsible for a boy’s death, and that she got away with it. That’s why she gets up at 2 a.m. and sits in a freezing cold shed to write to him. She feels that they have something in common, and that he may be the only person who will understand her culpability. Slowly, she reveals details of the story that led up to her friend’s death. Pitcher paces the action expertly, and the suspense grows with each letter.
I don’t know that I felt as sympathetic towards Zoe as I was expected to. It seemed towards the end that Pitcher wanted readers to view Zoe as a hapless bystander who was unnecessarily weighing herself down with guilt. I couldn’t quite make that work, though, because it seemed to me that Zoe indeed at least shared the blame for what happened. Also, I had to roll my eyes a bit at the “two boys are fighting over me” drama. Not that that never happens, of course…it just reminded me a little too much of Twilight. We’re supposed to believe that two popular, attractive boys found Zoe totally irresistible, yet there’s really nothing particularly noteworthy or special about her to warrant the attention. She was no Jo March or Katniss Everdeen, is what I’m saying.
Bottom line: Read this book, and decide for yourself if Zoe is worthy of empathy.