Saturday, 15 December 2018

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Published in the UK by Orion in December 2012. Audiobook narrated by Julie Maisey also published by Orion in December 2012.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Flying Birds and K for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge which I have now completed!

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook via Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear Mr. S. Harris,
Ignore the blob of red in the top left corner. It's jam, not blood, though I don't think I need to tell you the difference. It wasn't your wife's jam the police found on your shoe. . . .
I know what it's like. 
Mine wasn't a woman. Mine was a boy. And I killed him exactly three months ago. 

Zoe has an unconventional pen pal--Mr. Stuart Harris, a Texas Death Row inmate and convicted murderer. But then again, Zoe has an unconventional story to tell. A story about how she fell for two boys, betrayed one of them, and killed the other.

Hidden away in her backyard shed in the middle of the night with a jam sandwich in one hand and a pen in the other, Zoe gives a voice to her heart and her fears after months of silence. Mr. Harris may never respond to Zoe's letters, but at least somebody will know her story--somebody who knows what it's like to kill a person you love. Only through her unusual confession can Zoe hope to atone for her mistakes that have torn lives apart, and work to put her own life back together again.

Rising literary star Annabel Pitcher pens a captivating second novel, rich with her distinctive balance between humor and heart. Annabel explores the themes of first love, guilt, and grief, introducing a character with a witty voice and true emotional resonance.

I first listened to Ketchup Clouds five years ago when I purchased the audiobook as part of my Audible membership. This was before I began reviewing the books I read or listen to, but I remember having enjoyed the story and I went on to buy My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece, also by Pitcher, so I must have been impressed! This time around I did at times feel as though the writing was too young for me - it is a young adult novel so I suppose that was to be expected. The telling-the-story-through-letters device was sometimes a little wearying as well although I did appreciate how Pitcher uses Zoe's imaginings of American prison life to add humour and levity to the story. This could have been a depressingly melodramatic tale otherwise!

The characters in Ketchup Clouds were very real to me and I think narrator Julie Maisey did an excellent job of making each person both believable and easily identifiable. I could even differentiate between Max and Aaron which, as they are both similarly aged boys, was quite the narrative achievement. The fragmenting relationship between Zoe's parents is poignantly portrayed and I could clearly feel Sandra's extreme grief. Ketchup Clouds is a strongly emotional tale.

I was occasionally irritated by the apparent coyness of Zoe's slow revealing to her penpal of exactly What Happened On That Night. Generally Ketchup Clouds is well paced, but a few times Zoe's letters end at cliff hanger moments because she is 'too tired to keep writing now' and I could have done without such an obvious literary device. Her language rang true as that of a naive teenage girl though and I liked the increasing maturity of her voice as the story progresses. Supporting characters are strong too. Zoe's friend Lauren livens up her scenes and the portrayal of Zoe's deaf youngest sister felt authentic and not at all engineered for sentimental reasons. As you might have spotted (and recoiled from) in the synopsis, Ketchup Clouds does focus and hinge upon a Romantic Triangle so readers fed up of that trope should probably steer clear, but Pitcher does her tale justice and I enjoyed the listen I think just as much this time around as I did before.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Annabel Pitcher / Young adult fiction / Books from England


  1. Well, I have to say this one does sound unique for the shock-factor of a death row pen pal and her epistolary confessions.
    Alas, I am one of the love triangle cringers. :)
    Fantastic book title!

    1. It is an unusual novel which is very readable in a page-turner way ... but The Triangle ...!

  2. Why is this new to me? I love the premise and need to add it despite the triangle...grr.

    1. I think Ketchup Clouds would be a good read for you, Kimberly, even with the triangle! The audio narration is excellent if you get that version

  3. I have read both of the Annabel Pitcher books that you mentioned in this review! I have read this one and I really loved it. The slow reveal did take a while... and I often get impatient in thos kind of ways. And I liked the letter format and the characters a lot. I read them a few years ago when I was a young teen so that voice aspect to it didn't bother me at all! Great review x

  4. Yeah, but teenage girls do love to add dramatic cliff-hangers! ;)