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.
Annabel Pitcher’s debut novel My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece was one of the real success stories of 2011, it was shortlisted for a number of significant book awards and won a number of them including the Branford Boase Award. When I received my copy of her new book Ketchup Clouds I was really looking forward to reading it, could she do it again? Well in my opinion she absolutely has, and if anything she’s stepped up to a whole new level.
Ketchup Clouds is told solely through letters, Zoe has a huge secret and decides to unburden herself by writing letters to Stuart, a prisoner on death row. Her letters span 9 months, to begin with she is very reluctant to actually start writing about the secret she is keeping but as the letters progress she opens up and tells the story. Considering the serious nature of the letters there is a real warmth to the book and lots of humour.
The structure of the book works well for the plot and Zoe’s writing style brings in an element of suspense, there are a number of stories all unfolding through her letters – in addition to her story the reader also gets to discover Stuart’s story and her family’s story. These three plotlines are all woven together skilfully.
All of the characters are seen through Zoe’s eyes, the reader gets to see everyone as she sees them – I found the portrayal of her parents particularly interesting, as at 14/15 Zoe has reached that stage of seeing her parents as flawed but not the stage of trying to understand them. I liked Zoe herself a lot, though I think my favourite character has to be her youngest sister Dot. She steals the story whenever she appears.
I was absolutely gripped by this book, I was hooked by the opening lines and quickly realised I wasn’t going to get much else done until I finished reading! Throughout my proof copy there are points marked for illustrations to be placed in the finished copy of the book, I’m really looking forward to getting a copy so I can see these too.
Ketchup Clouds is published by Indigo in the UK from 27th December 2012. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.