Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher is a bit of a conundrum for me. I really wanted to like this book, I really, really did. But . . . I did not like it really at all. The problem I have with this novel is that too much was going on and none of it was satisfying for me. I did appreciate the family dynamics that Pitcher created in this novel, I found them real and refreshing and fun to read. I did not like Zoe writing letters to a condemned man on death row. Artistically I think that the author was going for a sort of "Dexter" meets "My Mad Fat Diary" but it does not really work out.
I kept waiting for the action to start interesting me and drawing me in and I waited till the very end of the novel. The prose is lovely and succinct and the characters have some depth and are not cardboard, but I just felt that too many loose ends did not tie up and there was too many side plots and other issues that really had nothing to do with the main core of the story.
This is not a terrible book my any means and as youth novels go it had some lovely moments. Perhaps being an older person I am jaded or there is something that I am not getting from this book. I suggest you read it to find out, I don't think you will feel like you have wasted time - in fact maybe you will get something out of it that I did not.
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.