I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
on November 12th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Law & Crime, Social Issues, Dating & Sex, Death & Dying
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Dear Mr. S. Harris,
Ignore the blob of red in the top left corner. It's jam, not blood, though I don't think I need to tell you the difference. It wasn't your wife's jam the police found on your shoe. . . .I know what it's like. Mine wasn't a woman. Mine was a boy. And I killed him exactly three months ago. Zoe has an unconventional pen pal--Mr. Stuart Harris, a Texas Death Row inmate and convicted murderer. But then again, Zoe has an unconventional story to tell. A story about how she fell for two boys, betrayed one of them, and killed the other.
Hidden away in her backyard shed in the middle of the night with a jam sandwich in one hand and a pen in the other, Zoe gives a voice to her heart and her fears after months of silence. Mr. Harris may never respond to Zoe's letters, but at least somebody will know her story--somebody who knows what it's like to kill a person you love. Only through her unusual confession can Zoe hope to atone for her mistakes that have torn lives apart, and work to put her own life back together again.
Rising literary star Annabel Pitcher pens a captivating second novel, rich with her distinctive balance between humor and heart. Annabel explores the themes of first love, guilt, and grief, introducing a character with a witty voice and true emotional resonance.
I do not read enough international young adult books, I swear. Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher is a British young adult contemporary book about a girl named Zoe. It is a book that I consumed over a few weeks, slowly. Not because it is slow paced or boring, but because it was my background book. This means that I had my main focus on other books and that this one was more of a transition kind of book, where I would read a chapter here or there before focusing on another. It never really grabbed my attention enough to be a main focus sort of read — however — I would absolutely still recommend this book to most readers of young adult literature.
Annabel Pitcher’s Ketchup Clouds is an epistolary novel about Zoe who writes letters to an American inmate on death row named Stuart Harris. Stuart has killed his wife, which is why he is on death row. Zoe lives with the belief that she killed a boy. Her letters open with the events of what is going on now and then continue in parts as she tells the story of what happened with this alleged murder that she committed and got away with.
We begin with Zoe attending a party with her best friend Lauren, where she meets a boy named Aaron who calls her bird girl and lights her imagination on fire. Unfortunately, he wanders off, she gets drunk and ends up hooking up with Max, who is super popular but not at all her cup of tea. We also learn about Zoe’s family dynamics which are a bit tense and strained. Ultimately, this epistolary novel by Annabel Pitcher is about forgiveness and how the only way out is through. Zoe cannot forgive herself until she confronts what actually happens, which she does with her confessional letters to Stuart Harris.
Zoe definitely makes some bad life choices and struggles with speaking her truth which comes as a detriment to her. She has to learn some hard life lessons in Ketchup Clouds. I thought that her character spent so much time dancing around the truth which annoyed me a little bit. I mean, I know real life actual teenagers are complex beings and in this book, Zoe is a complex being, but because my reviews are very subjective to how I feel about a book, I will say that it does come off as a little annoying to me. However, I do think actual teens reading Ketchup Clouds will be able to relate. It can be very hard to confront the tough issues in our lives, no one is immune to that for sure. And there’s a lot of people out there who avoid in the same way that Zoe avoids.
As I mentioned, there is some romance in Ketchup Clouds. Nothing where it is swoonworthy or anything like that. However, Zoe is caught between two boys – Max and Aaron. One is popular and charming and very good looking. The other gets her in a way that no one else seems to. One boy dies. And yes, these letters that the book is comprised of is how Zoe deals with the grief. There is some kissing and some making out and more — which I wasn’t expecting but which makes sense in the grand scheme of this book.
One other thing that really sets Ketchup Clouds apart for me is the family dynamic within the book. Zoe is the oldest of three girls, her younger sisters are Soph and Dot. Dot is deaf. Her parents are still together and married. Her mom does not work outside the home. Her dad recently lost his job. The tension between her parents is mounting and they fight every day. There is some worry that they will get divorced. Also, the family does not talk to the paternal grandfather, for a reason that is unexplained until the very end. I liked that the dynamics weren’t perfect, but were tense and real and not easy. Sometimes that happens and it seems like this is a very middle of the family dynamic spectrum that I do not see often.
In all, there are aspects of Annabel Pitcher’s Ketchup Clouds that I really loved and some that just did not sit well with me, hence why I am giving this three stars. I would recommend this book to patient readers who are okay with not knowing A)who died and B) how until the very end. For me, I felt a bit manipulated, having to wait that long, and then let down. On the other hand, the family dynamics make for some great reading, and I also liked the format of this book as well.