Author: Annabel Pitcher
How I Got This Book: Waterstones
Publisher/Date Published: Indigo, 27 December 2012
Fifteen-year-old Zoe Collins is like every other teenage girl, but with one difference; she has a dark secret that she can’t tell anyone. The only way she can cope with the guilt of what she’s done is to hide away from the world in her garden shed and write letter after letter to a man on the other side of the world who she’s never met – Stuart Harris, a death-row inmate serving time for murdering his wife. This unlikely pair have one thing in common and with a jam sandwich in one hand and a pen in the other, Zoe gradually reveals, both to her pen pal and to us, a story of young love, betrayal and murder.
The premise of this book is very sensational – a teenage murderer racked by guilt, a love triangle gone wrong. Take page one at face value before starting to read and it appears that the book is literally blood stained (blood, jam, same difference). It promises a lot and I’m not really sure if it really delivers. We struggle to decide whether to feel sorry for Zoe or to vilify her – her behavior throughout the book is often short sighted and a little self centered – and the narrative builds up to a big dramatic reveal that felt to me a little anticlimactic. If you are expecting high octane drama, then you will probably need to look elsewhere, because a lot of the story is surprisingly mundane. Despite this, there is a lot to love about Ketchup Clouds, such as believable, well crafted characters (like a lot of readers, I really liked Zoe’s little sister, Dot) and a thought provoking exploration of innocence, guilt and the lessons we have to sometimes learn the hard way as we navigate our way through the world. While I would personally never have made the choices that Zoe made, it is easy to appreciate that we may all behave differently in scenarios with the benefit of hindsight.
Annabel Pitcher is clearly a gifted writer with a talent for writing characters that teens can identify with and deftly weaving emotionally heightened scenarios that are not too far removed from issues that young adults face when navigating the perils and pitfalls of growing up. Ketchup Clouds it is easy to devour in a single sitting and if you enjoyed her debut novel, My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece, this one is a must read.