Ketchup Clouds from Annabel Pitcher, is a stunning follow up to her highly acclaimed inaugural novel ... My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece.
Ketchup Clouds won the prestigious Overall Winner category in The Waterstones Children's Book prize 2013.
Zoe is riddled with guilt. She needs to confess. She can't confide in her parents, the truth is too awful. A search on the internet leads her to a website which is requesting pen pals ... for convicted killers awaiting execution on the notorious death row in America. This provides Zoe with the perfect avenue to reveal all, after all ... they have something in common.
Ketchup Clouds takes the form of the series of letters Zoe writes, at night, whilst hiding in the shed at the bottom of the garden. As she gets closer and closer to the execution date of Stuart Harris in Texas, her letters become more urgent as she races towards the truth. Her experience. Her secret. The straightforward style, and inclusion of plenty of dialogue, helps increase the intensity.
Pitcher's tone and control of the narrative give authenticity to Zoe's situation. She met two boys, was attracted to one but fell in love with the second. It turns out they were brothers. It was complicated.
Zoe's wry sense of humour provide an added dimension to the narrative. Her comments to her pen pal are, at times, inappropriate. It is this which helps pull the reader to question Zoe's common sense and motives during other, more critical moments. Pitcher has harnessed a powerful tool which demands a critical reading approach from her reader - perfect.
Zoe isn't always a likeable character, however she has relatable feelings and emotions which tug at the reader - from the awkward moments in the library where she is trying to avoid Aaron, to her relationship with her siblings.
An intriguing, clever and enthralling novel.
Leave your comments below.