Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Paperback, 251 pages
Expected Publication: 3rd January 2013 by Indigo
Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret - a dark and terrible secret that she can't confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.
Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can - in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal.
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Since hearing about Ketchup Clouds, I was eager to get my hands on a copy of it! I absolutely loved the sound of the blurb and Annabel Pitcher is one of those authors that I think will always appeal to me - she has the most interesting ideas and a very unique voice.
The whole idea behind this story was something that immediately intrigued me. Our main character, Zoe, has made a big mistake, committed a crime, and has decided that she can no longer keep it to herself, so she decides to let it all out in a series of letters to Stuart Harris, a murderer on death row. I could not wait to start reading Zoe's letters!
I will admit that it did take me a while to get used to Zoe. The letters are clearly written in a younger voice than my own, which was difficult at first. However, as the book progressed and I got to know our protagonist, I could see her personality shine through on the paper and she even managed to made me laugh quite a few times! Pitcher certainly has a talent for getting into the mind of her characters - not only Zoe, but the rest of the characters also felt very realistic. I find it amazing how well the author has written the voice of a young teenager.
Several friendships and other relationships are explored in this book. Zoe's relationships with two brothers, Max and Aaron, play a vital part in this book, but I personally found Zoe's relationship with her family to be the most interesting and touching part of this book - particularly her interaction with her sisters. I also enjoyed it when Zoe clearly directed her thoughts and feelings towards the reader of her letters - with a somewhat childish naiveté but also with great sincerity.
Although there is a very heavy subject behind this story, Pitcher balanced things perfectly. The story never got too dark and if it held the risk of becoming maudlin, Zoe perked it back up again with her casual humour. The writing is simple yet impressive and easy to read. Zoe's letters held my attention throughout and the story was easy to become enthralled in. This was a page-turner and a quick read as I kept on reading 'just one more page' to discover more about what really happened.
Whilst I enjoyed Ketchup Clouds for the most part, I didn't absolutely love it - unfortunately I didn't feel the impact that I think that this book was supposed to make strongly enough - for me, it needed some more depth. I did enjoy this book more than her debut and I would recommend it to others as it is interesting and unique. As aforementioned, I think that Pitcher's story lines will always attract, and I have no doubt that I will pick up the next book that she writes!