London, Orion, 2012, 293p
Annabel Pitcher has wowed me again. Ketchup Clouds is just what I needed to get me back into teenage fiction after my break into the world of adult novels.
We are introduced to Zoe through her letters to Stuart Harris, a man on Death Row in Texas. She has found his information online and feels a connection to him, as she carries the guilt for something she cannot bare to tell anyone else. Zoe confides in Mr Harris, and her story is told through a series of letters she addresses to him.
It's rather difficult to say much about the book without revealing some of Zoe's secret. Suffice to say, it being teenage fiction, there is an element of romance, and the boy of her dreams is wonderful. He is clever and funny, and, just like every girl wants, completely gets her. Zoe gets caught up in the romance, loving the distraction from the issues facing her at home. She is under pressure to succeed academically, her parents pushing her towards a career in law when all she really wants to do is write. And on top of that, mum and dad keep arguing, making Zoe and her sisters worry that they might split up.
It took me a little time to get into this story, mainly because of the long winding sentences Zoe writes in. She gets caught up in a thought and it carries her away, producing muddled paragraphs and obliterating any sense of chronology. But overall, this adds to your sympathy for the girl.
Ketchup Clouds is a rewarding book - it gives the reader a sense of perspective on secrecy and guilt. Everyone in the novel seems to be keeping a dark secret, from the unfortunate Mr Harris, to Zoe, and even her parents. Underneath the story, there might even be moral guidance about honesty.