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Ketchup Clouds

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Secrets, romance, murder and lies: Zoe shares a terrible secret in a letter to a stranger on death row in this second novel from the author of the bestselling debut, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret—a dark and terrible secret that she can't confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.

Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can—in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal.

308 pages, Paperback

First published December 27, 2012

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About the author

Annabel Pitcher

12 books490 followers
Annabel Pitcher studied English at Oxford and has since worked as a script writer and an English teacher. She lives in Yorkshire with her husband. MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE was her first novel. She is a full-time writer.

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5 stars
3,568 (25%)
4 stars
5,295 (37%)
3 stars
3,733 (26%)
2 stars
1,155 (8%)
1 star
312 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,769 reviews
Profile Image for Idarah.
464 reviews45 followers
January 4, 2015
"...my stomach ached with disappointment at the familiarity of it all. Humans. We're all the same. There's no escaping it...Doesn't matter what language you speak or what clothes you wear. Some things don't change. Families. Friends. Lovers. They're the same in every city in every country in every continent of the world."

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.
Profile Image for Malia.
Author 6 books542 followers
July 28, 2018
KETCHUP CLOUDS
This book had been on my tbr for AGES, and when I recently came across it in my library, I thought now is as good a time as any to give it a try, especially as I had been binging crime fiction and needed a little break.
Ketchup Clouds is not an easy book to describe. It's got elements of a coming-of-age story, a mystery, romance and a dose of strangeness pervading the pages. I was surprised that it was considerably more melancholy than I expected. In the beginning, I thought it was just a story about a quirky girl with a vivid imagination, but as it progressed, I almost started to worry about Zoe, the protagonist, because she was making so many troubling decisions and I could just see how things would eventually spiral badly out of her control. This book was like a pleasant journey, which took a number or wrong turns and finally resulted in toppling off a cliff. That's not a criticism of the story, which I found engrossing, but it's definitely the kind of book where you are constantly questioning how far you can trust the narrator. I wasn't familiar with this author before, but I would definitely be interested in reading more of her books in the future. Ketchup Clouds was well-written, with strong character development and an engaging story. My only gripe is that I felt the ending was a little too rushed. But overall, I can definitely recommend it!
If you like Melina Marchetta's On the Jellicoe Road or anything by A.S. King, I think you might want to give this book a try.

Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews941 followers
May 12, 2020
So, I have to admit, I’m extremely underwhelmed by this book. I’ve never read My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece but I’ve heard it’s great. It never really appealed to me though, I’m not sure why.

But Ketchup Clouds appealed to me, really it did. I was captivated by the gorgeous cover, the wonderful title and the intriguing synopsis.

I guess you know what they say: you shouldn’t judge a book by a gorgeous cover, a wonderful title and… well, you get the gist.

This was such a disappointment. There was far too much going on, so many issues and drama smushed into a story that everything seemed to be watered down. When I’m reading a book, I’d much rather a few issues were dealt with thoroughly and completely so I can be completely invested in them as opposed to thousands, cluttering up my brain. To me anyway, it often felt that just as I was feeling one storyline, I was whipped away to try and deal with another thing.

I also had a bit of a problem with the whole letter writing to death row. In theory, excellent. In practice…. Not so much. It just didn’t seem to fit at all with the style of writing or the subjects that the story was covering. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it could’ve been a sixteen year old girl’s diary, full of angst and drama about boys and kissing. If you had taken out the references to death row and Stuart’s crime, I honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

And speaking of angst and drama about boys and kissing. Urgh…this next bit is going to be a spoiler so… just watch out.



However, I absolutely adored Zoe’s family. It’s obvious that Ms Pitcher has an eye for family dynamics and depicts them wonderfully, flaws and all. I was so fascinated by their interactions and I just wanted to get back to them when we were elsewhere in the story. It frustrated me that we only got brief glimpses of them, like you’re watching TV and the signal keeps going, coming back on when the episode has gone on a few scenes and you can’t help but think that you’ve missed something important.

I really apologise for being so grouchy in this review but I’m just so disappointed. And I’ll be the first to admit that I can be pretty brutal when it comes to books that disappoint me.

But… even though this book was not for me, I have a feeling it will be for about 97% of you.

Because that is the exact* percentage of people I know who adored The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. These two books, to me, are very similar. Both in writing style and subject matter. So if you are one of the 97% who loved Ms Nelson’s writing, then I urge you to pick this one up because I think you’ll like it.

*ish.
Profile Image for Charlie.
33 reviews12 followers
June 4, 2014
Trigger warning: Sexual consent issues. Slut shaming. Sexual coercion. Talk of domestic violence leading to death.

Synopsis:
Someone is dead. Zoe says she's responsible for his death. The narrative is insistent we won't find out who or how for far too long, like, all the damn book (leading to awkward reminises about 'The Boy' and 'Her Son'). I'm calling this the GIANT AWFUL SECRET. So Zoe decides to write to a death row prisoner in Texas in order to talk out her guilt and actions, because he'll understand (and obviously care about her tiny privileged girl problems, since he's about to be killed by the state and doesn't have anything else on his mind).

Firstly, the positives. The protagonist's youngest sister, Dot, is D/deaf. This novel protrays a D/deaf character in a way which is a positive example of disability in fiction. If you know a teen with a disability or disabled family member, they might love this book for those reasons (as I loved Dot and her story arc). I loved how normalised Dot was, as a part of the story, and as one of the three sisters. The way Zoe's parents treat Dot's disability in terms of a problem which can be fixed, or a way of life to be explored is fabulous and realistically complicated. Her mother obsesses over coclear implants, and her father struggles with sign language, while the sisters Zoe and Soph take it in stride and care about Dot's happiness in concrete ways.

Zoe's family is well crafted, interesting, and has a lot of complicated conflict. If the entire novel was about her family, I would have loved it. It gets a bit metaphorically complicated at one point. but Dot is an awesome character. Dot is why I finished this book. Dot would have got two stars all on her lonesome, if it hadn't become disability-metaphor, rather than child with a disability.

And the negatives...

For those familiar with fandom terms, Zoe is a giant Mary Sue. It becomes infuriating to listen to her life as she keeps making mistakes and being rewarded by being loved and adored by all who know her, and being melodramatic about her own guilt (while, seemingly, to not have learnt much to apply to her current/future behaviour). She doesn't have a strong or interesting relationship with her parents (who are interesting and troubled characters), her 'best friend' seems to exist solely because for her to not exist would be odd, but doesn't have any characterisation I can point at, and both her sisters profess their love for Zoe over their other sibling, without ever really seeing interactions between Dot and Soph. Her relationship triangle drama would have been easily resolved with about three minutes of communication with either of the boys (and her treatment of both is cruel, and self destructive, and oh so unnecessary).

I'm hardly the type to say that teen characters need to act kindly to each other, or communicate effectively, because that's boring. It's more a problem that she gets away with being so heartless and clueless, when previously she painted herself as a bookish nerd who is laughed at by the entire school. IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE.

There are also missed opportunities. Sooooo many missed opportunities. I could write a novel in response to all the things she didn't talk about. I'm tempted to writing a sarky fanfic series of letters from her prison pen pal telling her she's a twit. I'm so damn tempted to do that.

The idea of sexual consent was touched on and then thematically eliminated without consequence. Those scenes upset me (and I suspect would be triggering for some readers). It was dealing with sexual assault and coercion as is usually forgiven between teenagers (drunken; I didn't mean to; blame X; come on, you know you want to kiss me in the locker room even though we have nothing in common and I've proven myself a jackass, because I'm more popular than you). But this isn't anything to do with why Zoe has a problem with this character; it is forgotten, and forgiven, and no one at school (or Zoe herself) mentions it ever again.

Glossing over the nature and insidiousness of female sexuality being up for grabs was disturbing, both personally, and as part of a wider cultural narrative about how girls should expect to be treated when it comes to sex. Honestly, it felt like... somehow it didn't count as assault? Because teens think that sexting is fine and such, when it's creation and distribution and possessing child pornography legally is extraordinarily problematic. The characters don't have to know that, they're stuck in this world where it's normal, but the author should. It's like the author didn't notice that she had written non-con in the insidious way that can be most damaging, it was only drama.



You could also read her love triangle as an extensive example of slut shaming. (And internalised slut shaming at that.) She shouldn't have been flirting with two boys at once, so it's all her fault if bad things happen. She should put up with what she can get because that's better than she should expect as a book nerdy girl without popularity. So she's wrong and should hate herself for flirtations (and whatever her GIANT AWFUL SECRET is). Because being indecisive, sexual, and enjoying being wanted by boys leads to death and it's the girl's fault.

The missed chances with the death row conversation was ARGHGHGHGHGH inducing. I read that the lead character was writing to a death row inmate, and I wanted to read those interactions (even though I was underwhelmed by My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece). Unfortunately, she's writing anonymously, so we don't hear anything from Stuart Harris, her penpal, and we get his story in ridiculously convoluted snippets where Zoe guesses what he might feel, think, or remember. Zoe is also ridiculously patronising to Harris (to facilitate exposition), heavy-handed, reductive, disrespectful and depressingly ignorant in a way wikipedia could have fixed. Certainly an opportunity to talk about capital punishment, prison, homocide and justice was completely missed and that is INFURIATING, since it was the most interesting potential in the book.

The anonymous nature makes the whole thing so fucking pointless. The opportunities for an interesting and dramatic relationship are completely missed. She's confiding, but not conversing with *anyone* about what happened. (Another side effect of the GIANT AWFUL SECRET: so that we don't know who is dead, she can't talk to anyone who is still around other than her family. The brother who doesn't die can't be in the Now sections, even though if the entire thing was letters back and forth to him, it would have been far more interesting.)

The actual events of the book aren't enough to bring a reader from one chapter to the next. I didn't care about Zoe or her love life, given that nothing much happened, even if I cared about her family's drama. I hated her love life. I wanted to shoot her love life in the face, and sit her down in juvvie for a few years to think about her own unimportance, and require her to write lines about how other people don't just exist for her own edification.

Primarily, however, the problem is the forced suspense, as it impairs the entire plot and character development. The GIANT AWFUL SECRET that she's not telling us is all we have for suspense or driving the plot, and the suspicion that it's not worth telling starts creeping in extraordinarily quickly. If the GIANT AWFUL SECRET had actually been explored, engaged with, and had psychological consequences, rather than used as suspense, I would have found this book much more enjoyable.

As it was, I can't think of anything more infuriating.
Profile Image for Stephen Robert Collins.
553 reviews46 followers
May 20, 2018
This an award winning YA book it's a mystery, with plot twisting turns that lot of so called adult books don't have.
I had hard time thinking that this YA but at over 50 ys old I wish that there been books available like this when I was 14 but by time I was 7ys I read Agatha Christie & most of Dennis Whately At 11'
4 reviews2 followers
September 23, 2013
Okay, ketchup clouds. After reading this book I still do not know why it is called ketchup clouds. Well not really.

If you are looking for a happy summer read which leaves you in the same way as you were before you started the book then maybe this is not for you.

This book is about a girl and two boys. Yes I know what you're thinking not another love triangle but, it is more a story about a girl finding herself and accepting what she has done. She writes to a man of death row, she does not give her real name or address so the man can't contact her. In a way it is kind of beautiful how she gets so much comfort out of sharing her story with someone without being able to hear their reply. She seems to have a connection with him through the story and it seems that the bond between them enhances or maybe it is just her finally coming to acceptance.

I gave this book four stars so I am going to tell you why in hopefully four points. Keeping it concise like the book itself.


1) I loved it because it surprised me. When I picked up this book I thought it would not be great. Honestly, the first time I picked it up I put it straight back down and it took several other visits to the bookshop and many high recommendation from the shop keeper before I even just read the blurb. Yes I'm guilty of judging a book by its cover please don't hold that against me because I have never been one to follow the rules.


2) It wasn't overly romantic. Yes I am sucker for a good romance, I cried in the movie 'click' with Adam Sandler and in case you haven't seen it, the movie was suppose to be a comedy. But when it came to this book I did not really want a book all about love. Sex I'm fine with. But not so much love and passion not when it was a letter to a guy on death row who had probably not had romance with anyone in awhile. At least sex talk might have turned him on. Okay that sounded gross but it is kinda true in a realistic sense anyway I think this is a good time to wrap this point up before I get carried away.


3) The story and characters were heart warming. I loved the sisters and the fact the story was not all about Zoe the main character. Although, at times I found it a bit muddling I still enjoyed reading about Zoe's family and friend. Whether it is sweet little Dot or troubled Soph I found it refreshing that the book allowed an input into her family life. But the name Dot.


4)My last point will be that I like the book as a whole because the boys were not the perfect, heavenly boys that are portrayed in a lot if YA novels, it felt real and it was not a dream boy and I don't feel as though they are the boys from my imagination but, that sort of made me fall in love with them a bit more. That they felt real like all the characters just felt normal. They faced real problems and life did not revolve around the main character.

I likes this book and I hope I was able to help you into whether you wanted to read this book.
Profile Image for Sibel Gandy.
896 reviews51 followers
September 9, 2021
Türkçe ismi Hepsi Benim Suçum 🙄
Bol ödüllü kitaplarla anlaşamıyorum sanırım. Cidden bu kadar aptal bir baş karakterin (Zoe kaç yaşındaydı bu arada) ve kurguya dahil edilen anlamsız aile içi dramların olduğu bir kitap nasıl bu kadar ödül almış anlayamadım 🤔
Kitaptaki tek iyi şey kız kardeş Dot'tu.
Profile Image for Kluxorious Kluxces.
129 reviews5 followers
February 17, 2016
Urgh I suffered through this book. Zoe just pissed me off. She's selfish and such a bitch! Aron is no better. How can you do that to your brother! Jeebus.

I am not going to be coherent with this one. This book doesnt deserved any more attention. It is one of my disappointed reads of 2016.

The style of writing is so immature. Just urgghhhhh

Story 1/5
Character 2/5
Development 3/5
Enjoyment 2/5
Style of writing 2/5
Overall 2/5
Profile Image for G.
54 reviews18 followers
March 16, 2015
I don't know why, but I somehow love reading books of the contemporary genre. And for the record (aside from its strange title), I chose Ketchup Clouds because of its cover (haha can't help it) and its interesting synopsis that got me curious all along.

"I've done something wrong and do you know the worst thing? I got away with it."


The main character can't keep her secret to herself any longer, so she decided to tell her story to someone. She introduced herself as Zoe. Her story was told from the letters she wrote to Mr. Stuart Harris, an inmate charged for doing murder.She sends her letters to him, but she didn't disclose concrete information about herself.

What I didn't like here is that Zoe is very vocal considering that she's narrating her story to a stranger. Yes. The way she tells her story is very detailed (sometimes it gets gross). However, I like Zoe's honesty. Her voice is so sincere and unique. I learned more things about her and her personality. I admire how this book isn't overly romantic at all. However, if you're not into hammy love triangles, WARNING: keep this book away! I don't know if it is considered a spoiler if I'll spill the beans about Max and Aaron, but don't worry I won't spoil it for everyone. Anyway, these two guys are very interesting (and not perfect), for they are such total opposites. Their characters are both likeable even though Max seems a little douchy at the start, but then progressed as the story continues. I also prefer how she structured Zoe's family. Very realistic although it has a little drama in it.

All in all, I like all of the characters in this book, and how they made the story more complex. This book kept me clueless from the start until its near end. Zoe's storytelling isn't that vivid enough to easily find out the things that happened. As a reader, you have to connect the dots to create the image of the whole story though I was a little disappointed on how the story ended. The End. :)



Profile Image for Beatriz.
325 reviews130 followers
August 19, 2015
Overrated.



No es el peor libro del mundo, pero la forma de escribir de la protagonista me desesperaba. A punto estuve un millón de veces de abandonarlo. Encima es tan evasiva durante todo el puto libro. Le estás escribiendo a un convicto, cojones, ¿tienes que esperar hasta el último momento para decirnos quién la palma?

Y el tema del convicto me ha tocado un poco los huevos como se trata... A lo mejor es por la traducción, no sé, pero el tío lo condenan a muerte por matar a su mujer (y a su vecina). Es un crimen machista. ¿No había otro puto ejemplo de mierda para que la protagonista simpatizase con él? Esa clase de crímenes no son un "hoy me levanto con el pie izquierdo", que no me joda la autora. Esperaba que durante el desarrollo de la novela se corrigiese eso, pero nada. Quiero creer que es ironía británica tan fina que mi cerebro no puede detectarla...



Un libro muy ñeh.
Profile Image for Liam.
281 reviews2,336 followers
January 19, 2015
( 4.5 stars )

I've had this book for ages and literally knew very little about it but recently I felt an urge to just finally get round to reading it and WOW this book took me by surprise!

The concept and characters all felt so real and I really enjoyed reading this book and seeing how the story unfolded. I can't help but feel as though the ending was slightly anti climatic but it kind of helped make the story seem even more real and interesting!

The family in this book were so so well written and every single character was truly great and had their own story to tell.

The writing style was fantastic and I look forward to reading more Annabel Pitcher's books in the future!!

ps isn't the cover brilliant I mean just look at that font and those birds wow I love it
Profile Image for Anne.
2,040 reviews1,028 followers
October 23, 2012
When Annabel Pitcher's debut novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece was published in March last year she really raised the bar for authors of young adult novels and set herself a very very high standard to keep. The novel was shortlisted for numerous awards and was praised by other authors, by the press and by book bloggers.

I was very excited to receive a pre-publication copy of her second novel Ketchup Clouds which will be published by Indigo (an imprint of Orion) at the end of the year.

Ketchup Clouds is certainly not a copy of My Sister, but it got the same reaction from me and I loved every page, I was hooked in by the end of the first paragraph and was loathe to put it down at all until I'd finished the last sentence.
The lead character; Zoe, has done something wrong, or so she thinks. She has lived with what has happened to her for the past year, feeling guilty, yet hiding her feelings at the same time. Zoe's family have their own problems and she doesn't want to burden them any more. Mum and Dad are constantly bickering, about money, about jobs, about Grandpa, it seems to Zoe that they argue about everything these days. Her sister Soph is ten years old and struggles to find her place in the family, and then there is the baby of the family; little Dot. Dot is deaf, yet funny and happy but Mum does seem to spend so much more time with her than either of the others.

When a Nun visits Zoe's school to talk about capital punishment and tells them about prisoners on Death Row in the USA, Zoe becomes intrigued. It is there, in the most unlikely place, that Zoe finds someone she can confide in. Stu Harris, convicted murderer, facing the death sentence. Zoe creeps out into the garden shed night after night and writes letter after letter to Stu, spilling her secrets and her innermost thoughts honestly and candidly.

Annabel Pitcher creates a wonderfully lifelike and credible teenage voice in Zoe, allowing the reader to find out slowly and surely just what has happened to her over the past year. The family rows, the teenage angst, the blossoming relationships with boys, the responsibilities of being the older sibling, but at the same time she doesn't give much away. The sense of intrigue and the feeling of suspense builds up right up until the last few chapters when finally all is revealed to the reader.

There are only a very few authors of young adult fiction that can really engage me as an adult reader, who can write novels that seem as relevant to an adult as they do to teenagers. Tabitha Suzuma and the late Siobhan Dowd are two of the best, and Annabel Pitcher is now firmly up there with them in my eyes.

Ketchup Clouds is a compelling, sometimes funny, often heartbreaking and always original story of a young girl's guilt and fear, it's also a story of new beginnings and hope. The characters become real, the writing is engaging and very very special.

Fans of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece can breathe a sigh of relief, Annabel Pitcher has produced another sure fire winner.
Profile Image for Stacey (prettybooks).
500 reviews1,548 followers
March 23, 2014
Ketchup Clouds is a book that had been loitering around my wishlist for while, even though I didn't really know what it was about (ketchup?!) so, because my curiosity got the better of me, I finally checked it out of the library. I wasn't too sure what to expect, but I didn't expect to fall in love with it straight away. Ketchup Clouds is one of those books that makes me tell everyone I know about it (of course, everyone already knew about it since it won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2013, but that doesn't stop me), and tweet about it, and talk about how wonderful the sprayed edges are. I read a lot books – although not nearly as many as some of you! – and I find that it's quite rare for a book to consume me in such a way, yet it's what readers are always looking for.

I like to like characters, but Zoe, our protagonist (and that isn't even her real name – we find that out much later in the book) is pretty unlikeable, I'd say, in the way that if you're a teenager, you're not much a fan of fellow teenagers. She's selfish and self-centred and tactless, yet that doesn't seem to stop the reader from wanting the story to end in her favour. But I'll start at the beginning. Zoe is fifteen and a murderer – she tells us this so it must be true. She is overwhelmed with the guilt that comes with causing the death of somebody close to you and she cannot possibly tell anyone the truth aside from Mr. S. Harris. Stuart Harris is an inmate on death row in Texas, who Zoe begins sending letters to because she needs someone to relate to, someone who has already been what she has been through. But what has she been through? Ketchup Clouds does not tell us this vital piece of information straight away, for Zoe is an unreliable narrator, and instead we must, piece by piece, work out what Zoe has really done. All we know is that it involves death, two brothers, and a whole bunch of secrets and lies.

Ketchup Clouds is superb storytelling and a novel that encapsulates beautiful writing. As I have said, it draws you in straight away and doesn't let go until you are finally given some answers. We have an inkling early on about what might happen, but we keep wondering whether it might change if we don't think about it too much. Zoe is difficult to feel sorry for, after she makes shockingly bad decision after bad decision, yet I still wanted to prevent the immense anguish caused by two very different brothers. And Zoe isn't only preoccupied by romance and relationships for she's having a difficult time at home. Why won't her mother let her see her dying Grandfather? Why is one sister so awful to another sister, who is deaf? Why don't her parents notice her slipping out at night to write these confessional letters? Annabel Pitcher tackles the nature of guilt just wonderfully and expertly – how we deal with it, why we feel it and what we can do about it. I wish I could say more, but the beauty of reading Ketchup Clouds comes with finding out for yourself how it ends, perhaps throwing in little judgements, accusations and guesses along the way, but never quite knowing until the last page. If My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is just as brilliant, it looks like Annabel Pitcher will become one of my favourite authors!

I wish my review could do this book justice – it's my own fault for waiting over a month since I finished the book to review it. It's quite frustrating as Ketchup Clouds deserves so much more, but all I can say is read it.

I also reviewed this book over on Pretty Books.

Profile Image for Brittany (whatbritreads).
523 reviews1,034 followers
August 15, 2021
I just know for a fact that had I read this book when I was fifteen, it would’ve been an all time favourite and I probably would’ve orbited my personality around it. As an older reader I was a tad more critical, but this was still a brilliant read.

Right from the get go, this book did intrigue and mystery really well. We had the subtle dropping of hints and weaving in clues from the start, but while that gave me a hint of what was coming, I really had no idea how it was all going to go and the ending still gave me a shock. I literally couldn’t put this down once I started reading it, it just had me hooked. One of those books where you just have to find out what’s going on, as the narrative is a tad unreliable and messy. I mean that as a compliment. I think it worked really well for the story and the formatting overall was right up my alley. Every chapter had me saying ‘just one more chapter…’ to myself.

One of the main reasons I think teenage me would’ve clung to this book so fervently is that it depicted teenage angst and coming of age so well, it took me back to being fifteen a bit. When everything feels so important and you’re constantly overwhelmed, stuck between what you should do and all of the things you want to do. It captured the messiness of emotions and grappling with maturity and responsibility perfectly. These characters here were flawed and unreliable and honestly at times pretty terrible - but I loved them. I really did have a soft spot for them and all of the messed up things they did and the ways they kept hurting each other. It was consistently so bittersweet.

While it did the romance aspect well, a lot of it was also about family, and this family has a lot going on honestly. I liked how honest it felt, there was a real degree of humanity in here and it really did put forward the reality of most households really well. The dynamics were strained at times and there were secrets, deception and stunted conversation - but sometimes that’s what family is. It was hard to read at times and more than a little bit frustrating, but I loved that it didn’t sugar coat anything or make everything easy. Nothing in this book was easy, but it did make it all the more realistic.

I really did not expect the degree of heartbreak and utter devastation this book would bring honestly. I was not prepared to feel as emotional when I did reading those last couple of chapters, but damn they hit me. I just want to give these characters a hug. Several times I wanted to shake them and scream ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!’ also. It’s rare that I want books to be longer than they are, but I could’ve read this on and on. It really spoke to me, I think it was chaotically beautiful.
Profile Image for Teresa.
429 reviews106 followers
October 22, 2012
Annabel Pitcher’s debut novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece was one of my favourite reads of 2011 so I have been keenly anticipating her second novel, hoping that it would engage me and move me in a similar way. Well, it’s a very different type of novel but I’m delighted to report that it packs the same punch as its predecessor.

The novel is composed of a series of letters written by a fifteen year old British girl and addressed to Stuart Harris, a prisoner on Death Row in Texas. Initially, she is cautious about revealing her identity and location, writing under the pseudonym “Zoe” and living in Fiction Road. Ironically “Zoe” feels that she and Stuart have something in common – he having murdered his wife and she feeling responsible for the death of a boy she knew. So she sneaks out to the garden shed at night, hoping to somehow exorcise her guilt by confessing to a stranger.

We never hear directly from Stuart but there is quite enough going on in day to day life as well as “Zoe’s” gradual revelation of the events of the past year – May 1st is the first anniversary of the boy’s death. The author succeeds in weaving an intriguing tale of family relationships, the intensity of young love, the angst of the teenager as well as keeping the readers on the edge of their seats wondering who died and who is to blame.

Annabel Pitcher has captured the teenage voice and tone perfectly in a very natural and easy way. All of the characters are fully fleshed and extremely credible from the bickering parents feeling the stress of financial worry and the pressure of caring for elderly parents to the precocious middle child who feels ever so slightly neglected. It all flows beautifully and even though I’m not usually a big fan of romance, I felt the strength and intensity of “Zoe”’s emotions with a conclusion which moved me to tears. You’ll laugh and cry in equal measure and, if you’re slightly older like myself, you will breathe a blessed sigh of relief that you’re no longer a teenager.

It certainly doesn’t look as if Annabel has suffered much from second novel syndrome as her writing is going from strength to strength, increasing in confidence, engaging you from the first word and keeping you enthralled – I’m already looking forward to her next novel!
Profile Image for Bang Bang Books.
475 reviews207 followers
December 15, 2013
2.5 but it wasn't good enough to bump it up to a 3.
Not what I was expecting.
Profile Image for Lynda.
204 reviews61 followers
February 15, 2013
"Dear Mr 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". And so begins the story of 15 year old Zoe, a troubled teen, in letters she writes to Stuart Harris, a convicted murderer on death row in Texas, charged with murdering his wife.

I enjoyed the epistolary structure of the novel. Through her letters Zoe recounts the troubled events of the past year of her life. The intimacy of the letters and the freedom Zoe feels to tell this stranger everything allows her to be completely honest and ultimately relieves her of the guilt and burden she has carried. Without giving the story away, you soon begin to understand why she has chosen this ONE person to tell her story to, and the ultimate similarities she clearly feels she has with him.

This is the second novel I have read of the author and she has a talent in creating such wonderful (although in this case not particularly likeable), believable characters. Definitely a fan!

Profile Image for Erik Fazekas.
471 reviews194 followers
November 14, 2015
Kečupové oblaky sú pre mňa tento rok najúprimnejšia a najautentickejšia výpoveď tínedžerského rozprávača.
Keď som knihu otváral, nič som od nej nečakal. Čakal som niečo príjemné a v pohode, veď predsa aj tak o knihe nikto nikdy nepočul.

Annabel Pitcher ale vie písať. Vie zachytiť to, aké decké skutočne sú.
Román je písaný v listoch, ktoré píše hlavná hrdinka väzňovi v cele smrti. Napísať dobrý román v listoch je naozaj ťažké. A toto sa podarilo, už len ako hneď nazačiatku napíše, že bude rozhovory medzi postavami písať v priamej reči, aby to bolo prehľadnejšie, a vlastne len parafrázuje, lebo si už presne nepamätá, čo presne kto povedal:) Drobnosť, ale poteší, že autorka myslela na všetko.

Siahnite po Kečupových oblakoch, ak chcete objaviť niekoho nového, ak sa chcete schuti zasmiať aj poplakať.

P.S.: Kniha je tak na pomedzí MG a YA, a zo začiatku mi trochu vadil pridetský tón rozprávania, ale hrdinka sa počas knihy vyvinula, takže to bolo potom okej :)
Profile Image for Kimberly Ho.
101 reviews70 followers
January 25, 2016
Rating: 4.5/5

This book. Just wow. I could honestly say I connected INSTANTLY to the character's voice. The whole mystery surrounding who she killed and why she killed was just intense. I couldn't put it down once I started.

This wasn't just one story about Zoe, the main character. It interweaves 3 stories together. Zoe, Stuart's, and Dot's. The plot and story line was fast paced and makes you ponder why, what, how, when.

I didn't really like the ending to Zoe's part. The way it ended was just unsatisfying. Something felt missing. It could've been better. That last letter, the one that wasn't from Zoe, that was wow. I loved it.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,416 reviews131 followers
July 6, 2017
Es una novela interesante.
Sigo medio shockeada.
No sé que esperaba de este libro pero sin lugar a dudas superó mis expectativas.

!
Profile Image for Stephanie (Stepping Out Of The Page).
465 reviews222 followers
November 10, 2012
Since hearing about Ketchup Clouds, I was eager to get my hands on a copy of it! I absolutely loved the sound of the blurb and Annabel Pitcher is one of those authors that I think will always appeal to me - she has the most interesting ideas and a very unique voice.

The whole idea behind this story was something that immediately intrigued me. Our main character, Zoe, has made a big mistake, committed a crime, and has decided that she can no longer keep it to herself, so she decides to let it all out in a series of letters to Stuart Harris, a murderer on death row. I could not wait to start reading Zoe's letters!

I will admit that it did take me a while to get used to Zoe. The letters are clearly written in a younger voice than my own, which was difficult at first. However, as the book progressed and I got to know our protagonist, I could see her personality shine through on the paper and she even managed to made me laugh quite a few times! Pitcher certainly has a talent for getting into the mind of her characters - not only Zoe, but the rest of the characters also felt very realistic. I find it amazing how well the author has written the voice of a young teenager.

Several friendships and other relationships are explored in this book. Zoe's relationships with two brothers, Max and Aaron, play a vital part in this book, but I personally found Zoe's relationship with her family to be the most interesting and touching part of this book - particularly her interaction with her sisters. I also enjoyed it when Zoe clearly directed her thoughts and feelings towards the reader of her letters - with a somewhat childish naiveté but also with great sincerity.

Although there is a very heavy subject behind this story, Pitcher balanced things perfectly. The story never got too dark and if it held the risk of becoming maudlin, Zoe perked it back up again with her casual humour. The writing is simple yet impressive and easy to read. Zoe's letters held my attention throughout and the story was easy to become enthralled in. This was a page-turner and a quick read as I kept on reading 'just one more page' to discover more about what really happened.

Whilst I enjoyed Ketchup Clouds for the most part, I didn't absolutely love it - unfortunately I didn't feel the impact that I think that this book was supposed to make strongly enough - for me, it needed some more depth. I did enjoy this book more than her debut and I would recommend it to others as it is interesting and unique. As aforementioned, I think that Pitcher's story lines will always attract, and I have no doubt that I will pick up the next book that she writes!
Profile Image for Naty.
564 reviews
December 9, 2015
4,5*
Ja len....WOW. Nemám slov. To bolo tak pekné, tak reálne, tak neskutočné a neobyčajné....viac neviem...musím sa spamätať.

9.12.
Well...tak teda. Táto kniha ma tak úprimne prekvapila, že som to totálne nečakala. Poznáte ten pocit, keď ten príbeh totálne žijete a spolu s tou hrdinkou dýchate ten istý vzduch? Tak toto je ten prípad. Zoe, dievča s obrovským tajomstvom, ktoré píše listy väzňovi odsúdenému na smrť a pomaly rozpráva príbeh. Svoj príbeh, ktorý nepovedala nikomu. Táto kniha bola totálne divná, v dobrom slova zmysle, totálne tínedžerská a krásne úprimná a vtipná a svieža a proste obyčajne neobyčajná. Veľmi pekný príbeh o láske, problémoch v rodine, tajomstvách, vtákoch a o živote tínedžerov, ktorí vystrájajú blbosti, prvýkrát sa opijú, chodia na žúry, zažijú prvú lásku a prvé sklamanie. Neskutočne realistická a obdivuhodne napísaná kniha.
Profile Image for Vendea.
1,466 reviews159 followers
December 8, 2015
Nehorázné překvapení... Naprosto mne nadchla jediná věta na obale... Musela jsem... a bylo to naprosto boží. Citlivý, skvěle napsaný příběh s autentickou hlavní hrdinkou a zajímavým námětem. Byla tam i vážná stránka, což se mi líbilo. A na konci mi i ukápla nějaká ta slza... A je to psané v dopisech. Takové knihy miluju.

4.5/5*
Profile Image for Radek.
75 reviews31 followers
February 13, 2016
Nebylo to špatné, ale a) nepřináší to do žánru nic nového, b) táhne se to hůř než námořnické lano, c) hlavní hrdinka byla tak nudná, jako je Penny nejhloupější hlavní hrdinkou ve vesmíru.
Profile Image for Syki.
959 reviews218 followers
December 27, 2015
Patnáctiletá Zoe tráví chladné noci jiným způsobem, než aby klidně spala v posteli v pokoji – píše tajně v kůlně na zahradě dopisy Stuartu Harrisovi, usvědčenému vrahovi, který v Texasu čeká v cele na smrt. Mají oba totiž něco společného – oba zabili… jenže Zoe to prošlo.

Cítí, že ji jen Stuart dokáže pochopit a že jen jemu může popravdě vypovědět, co všechno se stalo a co všechno ji tíží na srdci. Doufá, že prostřednictvím dopisů dokáže ulehčit své duši a konečně dojít smíření…

Annabel Pitcher se narodila v malé vesničce ve West Yorkshire, kde se vyskytovalo více ovcí než lidí. Už od mala zbožňovala hraní, tanec a balet, také hrála na housle a piano, ale vždycky se vášnivěji věnovala hraní. Jejím nejoblíbenějším předmětem na škole byla Angličtina a už od útlého věku psala vlastní příběhy, spolužáci jí předvídali hvězdnou spisovatelskou kariéru.

I proto nejspíš na Oxfordu studovala Anglickou literaturu, což ji dalo solidní základ pro psaní. Pracovala jako učitelka Angličtiny, scénáristka a až během cestování s manželem se rozhodla napsat příběh My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, který se stal její debutovým kouskem. Ráda píše nelehké příběhy a hledá pro své postavy světlejší zítřky.

Český překlad musím pochválit, četl se mi velice dobře a nepamatuju si, že bych v textu narazila na nějaké slovíčko, které by mi tam nesedělo. A to je už co říct, když se v poslední době nad některými českými překlady musím ušklíbat.

Ani upřímně nevím, co jsem od knihy očekávala. Moc recenzí jsem nečetla a kniha mi tak nějak sama spadla do klína, možná to je jenom dobře, protože jsem si tak její četbu užila daleko víc. Hlavní hrdinka je jako jedna z nás – zmatená, nejistá, odvážná, lehce potrhlá a vlastním přičiněním nešťastná. Když vyprávěla o své rodině, měla jsem pocit, jako bych se dostala mezi staré známé.

Autorka na svém příběhu ukázala, že si všichni s sebou životem taháme nějakou vinu, ať už je větší nebo menší. Kolikrát je to jen smutná souhra náhod, která nás ovlivní do konce života a je jen na nás, jak moc se tím necháme užírat. Vyprávění příběhu prostřednictvím dopisů je netradiční a daleko napínavější, než kdybychom se všechno dozvěděli rovnou. Máme tak šanci si k Zoe vytvořit vztah a pochopit, proč je taková a proč má vůbec potřebu psát dopisy usvědčenému vrahovi.

Kečupová mračna jsou vlastně jeden velký zamotaný příběh nešťastné lásky, rodinných problémů a jakéhosi hledání sebe sama i samotného místa v už tak chaotickém životě. S některými postavami soucítíte více, s jinými méně a i když už od samotného začátku víte, jak kniha skončí, stejně až do samotného konce doufáte, že bude konečné rozuzlení krapet jiné.

Jedinou výtku mám k chaotickému vyprávění, kdy se v těch skocích v časech mírně ztrácíte a tak nějak nevíte, co se děje teď, co se dělo tehdy a jak to vlastně celé skončilo. Mám pocit, že mi to stejně ještě někdo bude muset osvětlit, jestli jsem ten konec pochopila správně, protože Dot mě svým vlastním zápisem zmátla ještě víc. Z toho důvodu dávám knize velice zasloužené 4 hvězdičky a myslím si, že je to kousek, který by vám rozhodně neměl uniknout.


----------Reakce po dočtení knihy------------
Slupla jsem tuhle knihu jako malinu a byla vážně výborná. Jediné mínus má v tom, že jsem byla z toho časového sledu častokrát zmatená a nevěděla jsem, o jakém období se mluví. A taky proto, že mě samotný konec naprosto zmátl a tak nějak nevím, co si mám myslet.
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