Of course Zoe isn’t anything like Texas death row inmate Stuart Harris. She got away with her murder.
Plagued by guilt and using the alias “Zoe,” the British teen writes a series of confessional letters to Harris. These episodic letters reveal a string of fateful decisions, including her role in a young man’s death. Seizing on her parents’ marital problems, Zoe escapes to a party and finds instant attraction with “The Boy with the Brown Eyes.” But when he disappears, she takes solace—with clothing removed—with popular Max Morgan. While periodically running into the mysterious guy, who she learns is named Aaron, Zoe continues her mostly physical relationship with Max. When she also discovers that Aaron and Max are brothers, readers clearly understand that one of them will die because of her. It’s not just suspense that drives this epistolary page-turner, but Zoe’s authentic emotional responses and unyielding wit (“who knew that vomit could be flirtatious?”). Zoe’s not a monster here but a typical adolescent who does like Max but is in love with Aaron. An engaging subplot involving Zoe’s younger, deaf sister and her mother’s culpability in her disability mirror Zoe’s mounting tension.
After many red herrings, a bittersweet ending brings compassion and answers to Zoe’s dilemma and shows just how easy it is to make mistakes and how hard love can be. (Fiction. 13 & up)