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Ketchup Clouds Hardcover – November 12, 2013
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*Starred Review* Pitcher, author of the well-received My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece (2012), delivers a novel that is by turns heartbreaking and hilarious. Here, 15-year-old Zoe writes to a Death Row inmate in Texas. She empathizes with him and wants to share her story—after all, she killed someone, too. From the garden shed of her home in England, Zoe (not her real name) pens lengthy letters to Stuart Harris offering snapshots from the previous year: how she met a boy with beautiful brown eyes named Aaron; how, before their feelings for each other were verbalized, she kissed, and then dated, his brother, Max; how Aaron and Zoe kept up the facade of Max and Zoe to protect Max. But one of the brothers ends up dead—this much we know—but we don’t know which one, or how Zoe was involved, until the very end. The suspense is palpable, and Zoe’s voice is witty and introspective as she explores issues relating to family, grief, and love. With each new letter, Zoe writes more familiarly, addressing “Mr. Harris” as “My dearest Stu” and signing with “Love,” as the clock counts down to the inmate’s execution day. While there are a couple of missteps at the very end—including an anticlimactic family revelation—there’s no denying the emotional resonance of this bittersweet novel. Grades 7-12. --Ann Kelley
Praise for Ketchup Clouds:
* "By turns heartbreaking and hilarious... Zoe's voice is witty and introspective as she explores issues relating to family, grief, and love."―Booklist (starred review)
*"Zoe's introspective and surprisingly humorous voice will strike a chord with readers as they dwell on the space between guilt and innocence."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Zoe's original mind, turns of phrase, and sprightly narrative style give her story quick, light momentum and moments of lyricism...Sharp, articulate perceptions and a measure of suspense-as well as a lively thread of wit and humor-make this a very engaging read."―The Horn Book
Top customer reviews
From what I can see reading the other reviews, you either love this or your don't. I would have come down with a 4.5 rating.
Interesting premise: young UK girl dealing with first love confusion and then guilt over a death begins writing to a death row inmate in Texas. That's cool. I like it a lot. it plays with the time line so you obtain memories from the letters as well as current action--that's cool and well done. Toss in the nice little subplots: a professional dad out of work and a guilt ridden stay at home mom over an incident involving their youngest deaf daughter, two brothers that fall for the same girl; the dead boy's mom trying to figure out how to cope and how her son died, another sister who is being bullied but isn't--those are nifty too. OK--maybe she over did the subthreads.
Negatives: Although the young girl's voice is age appropriate, it rattles apart at various times. That was disappointing. She comes across as far too mature in some relationships (siblings) and far too immature in the romance triangle.
Mixed feelings: The inmate on death row is kinda important, but we miss his input since he's doesn't reply. As his death date arrives, I didn't feel it was tied into the story to bring about any resolution on the MC's part. That left me disappointed, and you don't want to disappoint your reader.
My ultimate guess? I'm probably going to fall in love with one of the other nominations like I did last year.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
The book faltered the most during the interludes when Zoe directly addressed Stuart (the murderer) - she is inappropriate, incredibly naïve, to the point of stupidity, and cruel, speaking about his execution as if it were a school field trip. I kept waiting for him to write back to her - at the very end, I thought, after his execution, she'll get a letter from him. Instead, the letter is from another character altogether, which makes no sense in the framework of the novel and I felt was totally unnecessary - the writer holding my hand, dragging me to what she wanted to make sure I understood, in case she hadn't made her point clearly enough. I felt condescended to and, quite honestly, deceived.
I had purchased this book and "My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece" together, but decided to read this one first. I will still read the second book, but my expectations will be much lower.
If you're a Netflixter, then you're aware of the unique rating algorithm that essentially takes the guess work out of whether you will love or hate a movie based on your past ratings. It would be awesome if Goodreads had a similar system (hint, hint) instead of basing ratings on how others rated a book.
Not to knock Goodreads too much, the site has actually turned me on to several books that I would have otherwise never given a second glance. Ketchup Clouds is a stellar example of a book I would have never found on my own.
Zoe seeks out a Texas Death Row inmate as a pen pal. Writing from the shelter of her garden shed in the UK, she relates the events of the previous year. Riddled with guilt over the death of her boyfriend, she confides in her penpal about her guilt, family life, and all the events leading up to the sad conclusion.
I have to say that based on the dust jacket, this turned out to be quite different than I expected...in a good way! It was a pleasant read, and I came away with the quote above. As imperfect humans, we all make mistakes, and sometimes the moving on part can be the hardest thing to do. I think this was the perfect book for me to read at the right time, which probably supports the 4-star rating. If you read this book, I hope you find just as much meaning in it as I did. I look forward to reading My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece.
Most recent customer reviews
I have mixed feelings about this book. I really enjoyed the first half, but the second half, not so much.Read more