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Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 10/15/2013 *Starred Review* Pitcher, author of the well-received My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece (2012), delivers a novel that is by turns heartbreaking and hilarious. Here, 15-year-old Zoe writes to a Death Row inmate in Texas. She empathizes with him and wants to share her story—after all, she killed someone, too. From the garden shed of her home in England, Zoe (not her real name) pens lengthy letters to Stuart Harris offering snapshots from the previous year: how she met a boy with beautiful brown eyes named Aaron; how, before their feelings for each other were verbalized, she kissed, and then dated, his brother, Max; how Aaron and Zoe kept up the facade of Max and Zoe to protect Max. But one of the brothers ends up dead—this much we know—but we don’t know which one, or how Zoe was involved, until the very end. The suspense is palpable, and Zoe’s voice is witty and introspective as she explores issues relating to family, grief, and love. With each new letter, Zoe writes more familiarly, addressing “Mr. Harris” as “My dearest Stu” and signing with “Love,” as the clock counts down to the inmate’s execution day. While there are a couple of missteps at the very end—including an anticlimactic family revelation—there’s no denying the emotional resonance of this bittersweet novel. - Copyright 2013 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 12/01/2013 Gr 8 Up—Sitting alone in her shed, "Zoe" writes letters to a Death Row inmate in Texas, confessing her belief that she's responsible for the death of a boy in her British town. Since he's a murderer, too, she believes he should understand her feelings of guilt and regret. Using a pseudonym and a fake address, Zoe tells her pen pal how she met and developed crushes on two brothers, Max and Aaron, and how things went terribly wrong. All but the last section of the book is told entirely through her letters, which chronicle her physical relationship with Max, her burgeoning crush on Aaron, and her interactions with the dead boy's mother. Her narrative also describes her dying grandfather, squabbling parents, deaf youngest sister, and a middle sister who's reporting increasingly serious bullying problems at school. As her correspondent's execution date nears, Zoe approaches her story's dénouement. The twist on a familiar epistolary format is interesting if somewhat overstretched, and transitions between past and present are sometimes unclear. A subplot about Zoe's mother's work/life balance issues seems somewhat too adult, but the ambiguity of the dead boy's identity keeps readers turning pages. Overall, this title will be enjoyed by teens seeking edgy, realistic fiction with elements of romance and suspense.—Jill Ratzan, I. L. Peretz Community Jewish School, Somerset, NJ - Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 01/01/2014 Zoe seeks to unburden her guilty conscience, and she chooses an unusual method: writing letters from the shed in her English garden to a death-row inmate in Texas. In these letters, she confesses that she too killed somebody, and as the months go by and her letters to her silent correspondent become more revealing, the story of her guilt and the events that led up to it becomes clear. Zoe at first became involved with Max, a boy in her class, but mostly she enjoyed making out with him and drawing his attention; it was his older brother, Aaron, with whom she felt a genuine and electric connection. When Max discovered her relationship with Aaron, tragedy ensued. Pitcher (author of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, BCCB 10/12) draws a sympathetic and credible picture of a conflicted girl; Zoe’s ambivalence about Max, who brings her a fairly pleasing relationship all the more rewarding for being a sure thing, will particularly speak to many readers making their own relationship assessments. The device of the convict letters, however, is superfluous and distracting, with her correspondent’s pending execution awkwardly brushed aside so Zoe can talk about boys; the scenario of Max’s accidental death, for which Zoe feels responsible, is strained, and the book ends on unsatisfying, inconclusive note. Zoe’s conversational narration and the book’s suspenseful withholding of her secret may nonetheless appeal to readers, and they’ll be drawn along with Zoe to consider notions of guilt and culpability. DS - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.