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Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Friday, April 19, 2013

Publisher: Orion
Format: Hardback
Rating: 4/5

Zoe has done something terrible. Something awful. The weight of the terrible, awful thing has become too much to bear for poor, fifteen year old Zoe, so she pours her heart and soul out in letters to somebody. This somebody has also done something awfully terrible - perhaps even worse than Zoe. This somebody is on death row. Over the course of a few months, Zoe confesses everything to the prisoner in an attempt to gain closure, to begin to contemplate moving on from a time in her life filled with love and heartbreak.

Ketchup Clouds is a special book (Emma, if you ever come across this, thanks for such a great birthday present!) The story and the characters are all a little bit familiar but there's a certain spark to this book that makes you realise 'oh, that's why it won the Waterstones Children's Prize'. Obviously, the concept helps distinguish this teen novel from all the others - I can only think of one other book that I've read with a death row inmate (Take Me There by Carolee Dean) and certainly not another British one. 

I liked that the three central characters were relatively normal. Nobody was glittering and shining, nobody was 'unattainable' (yes, Max was supposed to be the best looking boy in the school but only in the context of teenage girls at secondary school). They were just ordinary people, I could think of many of my old schoolmates who were like these characters. They all sounded and acted like teenagers, which is always a good thing in a teen book. 

I also liked that the family were dealing with regular problems and nothing was tied up in a bow at the end. Dot was an amazing supporting character. There were quite a number of characters but it didn't seem overwhelming, in fact, it just helped enforce the realism. 

Zoe's guilt was palpable throughout and kudos to Annabel Pitcher because it took me quite a while to vaguely figure out what she might have done. When all is finally revealed, you just want to give Zoe a big hug. 

Overall, Ketchup Clouds was an interesting take on a tried and tested formula, mainly what could have been another tedious love triangle - perhaps it is time to give the love triangle/quadrangle a rest? Anyway, this book reminded me, in tone, a little of The Sky is Everywhere and that, my friends, is not a bad thing at all. 

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