By Annabel Pitcher
Published 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Zoe is writing letters to a very unusual pen pal - a death row inmate in Texas. But, you see, Zoe thinks she has more in common with Mr. Stuart Harris than you might believe. After all, she killed someone.
I requested the e-galley of this because I had loved My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, Pitcher's YA novel that came out (in the U.S., anyway) last year. As such, I had pretty high expectations for this one.
I'm not sure it quite lived up to my expectations, though I still found it a very compelling read. I'm a big fan of epistolary novels and I think the format works really well here. The letters - and the spacing of Zoe's story among them - are part of what propels the book along. While at times I found myself a bit frustrated at the slow reveal of information surrounding what exactly Zoe did, I don't think it's a bad thing that I felt this way. In fact, I imagine many readers feeling this way and this feeling is exactly what will push them to keep reading. Did Zoe really kill someone? Is she really on the same level as Mr. Harris? Only finishing the novel will give you these answers.
I liked Zoe well enough, though it's quite clear all along that she is hiding things. Though I'm not sure how common love triangles are in real life (and yes, I've said before that I'm quite sick of them in teen novels), I think the one that occurs here is believable and it's easy to see that many readers will be sympathetic to Zoe's feelings. None of the secondary characters stand out terribly much; however, I felt like there were a lot of things that could have been explored with Zoe's family. I'm glad that some of them were discussed towards the end of the novel, but I think there is even more that we could have learned about the family.
The story itself is interesting and, as I said, the slow reveal will keep you hanging on until the end. I don't believe this is as strong as Pitcher's previous book, but it was interesting, and readers looking for a contemporary mystery will be happy to stumble upon this one.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.