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11 March 2014

Review: Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Author: Annabel Pitcher
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
Publisher: Little Brown for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Drama
Find It: GoodreadsAmazonB&N, Book Depository
Source: Library

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.

One thing I can say for Ketchup Clouds is that it's definitely a unique read and I can't think of another book quite like it. Ketchup Clouds is told from the point of view of Zoe (an alias), a teenager suffering from debilitating guilt. From what, we're not exactly sure. Zoe decides to share her story with a death row prison inmate in order to assuage her guilt and share her secret with someone. Zoe relates to the inmate because, in her mind, she's killed someone as well. Through Zoe's letters, the reader learns about the events leading up to the fateful day that would change Zoe's life forever and leave one young man dead.

I don't read many epistolary novels (novels written through documents, like letters and diary entries). I think it's really hard to do well. Zoe's letters read more like diary entries and I think the book would have worked better for me if that's what they were. Instead, the letters feel awkward and gimmick-y. It also bothered me that Zoe took such a long time to tell her story. She confesses a burning desire to share her tale, and then takes months to do it, even as the inmate's execution draws near.

Zoe starts writing to this inmate because she says can relate to his crimes. However, after hearing her whole story, I found it hard to believe that she would identify so much with a man who murdered his wife and her lover after he caught them cheating. Zoe feels like she murdered someone but the situations were so different it was hard for me to believe she'd relate so much, though I guess it just shows how guilty Zoe feels.

Zoe is an interesting character though not one that I can say I really like. She really likes one brother but starts going out with another because he happens to be available.  While I don't expect every character to be a paradigm of good human behavior, I found Zoe's actions to be very selfish and immature. She's acting like a normal teenager but there was just something about it that rubbed me the wrong way. She did win a few points with me though with her relationship to her sister. She was very protective of her and their relationship was very sweet.

As for the romance in the story, I definitely fell on the Team Aaron side. It was clear to me that Zoe and Aaron had so much more in common and more chemistry than Zoe and Max. I think that's why I was so annoyed that she kept things going with Max because she and Aaron seemed to have a much deeper connection.

This book was really a mixed bag for me. The overall premise is original but the execution was not quite there and it fell short of my expectations. It's still a worthwhile read just because it is very unique point of view and the identity of which brother died left me guessing until the very end. No doubt this book will find fans, but it just wasn't for me.

Visit the author online at www.annabelpitcher.com, Facebook and follow her on Twitter @apitcherauthor

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