Ketchup Clouds

Ketchup Clouds
Genre(s)
Age Range
13+
Release Date
November 12, 2013
ISBN
9780316246767
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.

Editor review

1 review
A great mystery
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Ketchup Clouds begins with a letter to an inmate on death row. Zoe (real name withheld) is writing to Stuart Harris - convicted killer of two - in order to confess her crimes to someone who might understand the depths of her betrayal. Through her letters, she reveals how she became involved with two brothers and the consequences of her playing with a pair of hearts.

I was first intrigued by Ketchup Clouds because the synopsis offered an interesting perspective - that of a teenage girl, writing a convicted killer in order to confess her own role in a tragedy. The letter format is interesting and the narrator's voice is unique. She speaks very matter-of-factly, even though she is clearly burdened by her secret. Naming herself Zoe, the main narrator shifts backward and forward in time in order to describe her present guilt and her past transgressions. This roundabout way in which Zoe tells her story adds suspense in a very natural way, without interrupting the flow of the narration.

As a character, Zoe seems like a typical teenage girl. She feels oppressed by an overbearing mother and burdened by the constant fighting between her parents. In an effort to gain some independence, she begins lying to her parents and this theme permeates the book as more and more untruths get Zoe into more and more trouble. I very much enjoyed the realistic portrayal of a modern-day family. Zoe has two younger sisters, one who is deaf and enjoys the bulk of her mother's attention and one who is not and has begun acting out. The parents argue over some very serious issues, but we do get to watch them work together to create some sense of harmony. I did feel that this particular portion of the story was a little too easily solved and I am not sure that, beyond the scope of this story, the family would remain intact.

There was also a character whose behavior gave me serious pause. Sandra, Max and Aaron's mother. Throughout the "present day" portion of the narration her actions become more and more erratic and alarming. She called Zoe far more often than is appropriate and would show up unannounced. I realize that she is being portrayed as the grieving mother, but I simply could not understand why Zoe's parents did not step in and deny her access to their child. I also found it incredibly creepy that Zoe was writing this story to a convicted murderer on death row. It was particularly upsetting when she began describing her sexual exploration. I couldn't help picturing this grown man and how he would react to these descriptions of sexual play among teenagers. It was more than a little unsettling for me, particularly because I teach teenagers Zoe's age.

I really enjoyed Pitcher's writing style and the unique idea behind this particular story. Sign me up for her next book!
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User reviews

1 review
Overall rating
 
3.3
Plot
 
3.0(1)
Characters
 
3.0(1)
Writing Style
 
4.0(1)
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Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher review
Overall rating
 
3.3
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
3.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Written in a series of letters to a criminal on death row this book gave me mixed feelings. I don’t think the letters were ever sent but the fact that 15 year old ‘Zoe’ felt that she could only confide her devastating secret to a murderer is unsettling. While ‘Zoe’s’ parents are suffering their own secret guilt in regards to her baby sister’s deafness and her other sibling is seeking attention by faking being bullied, Zoe develops feelings towards two boys that she discovers are brothers. ‘Zoe’ glosses over incidents that make her appear sexually available with one brother but oblivious to the affects this is having on the other brother. I picked up this book because I was moved by My Sister lives on the mantelpiece. Where one book offered closure for the characters there is none for ‘Zoe’ in Ketchup clouds. Ketchup clouds won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult novel 2014.
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