Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

After a traumatic event in Zoe's life, she begins writing to Stuart Harris, a Texas Death Row inmate convicted of murdering his wife.  Zoe writes to Mr. Harris, telling him her story, knowing he'll understand, because they both were responsible for the death of someone they loved.

It was an interesting book, and I enjoyed it.  The framing devices worked well.  Zoe can't tell anyone the truth about what happened to her, and she feels safe writing to Mr. Harris.  First of all, she feels he'll understand.  Second, she doesn't use her real name or address, so no one can ever find her.  And finally, Mr. Harris is going to be executed.  Zoe is telling someone her secret, but soon there will once again be no one in the world who knows.

Zoe begins telling her story three months after the event happened, and writes throughout that year until the first anniversary on May 1, also the date that Mr. Harris is to get his lethal injection.  Zoe tells, in great detail, meeting two brothers, Aaron and Max at a party (although she doesn't know they're brothers at the time).  Zoe feels drawn to Aaron, but Max goes to her high school, is very popular and seems interested in Zoe.  Zoe and Max start hooking up, although Zoe keeps an eye out for Aaron (who is older and in college).

Zoe is physically attracted to Max, but they have nothing else.  She can't talk to him, he doesn't get her sense of humor.  Aaron does, but Zoe believes him to have a girlfriend.  And then she realizes they're brothers, and she doesn't know what to do.

We know at the start of the book that Zoe blames herself for someone's death, and it soon becomes clear that it's going to be one of the brothers.  What we don't know, for almost the whole book, which one it is.  She clearly isn't with either of them now.  But who had died?  And where is the other brother?  And did Zoe actually kill someone, like Mr. Harris did, or does she just feel responsible in some way?

While Zoe is mainly telling the story or her relationship with the brothers that lead to tragedy, there's also a side focus on her family.  Her father has recently lost his job, and there's a lot of tension between her parents, which doesn't just seem to be from concerns about money.  Zoe has two younger sisters, the youngest one who is deaf, and her mother spends most of her time with her.  Zoe begins to see that her mother has been carrying a heavy secret as well, and that the guilt consumes her.  Zoe and her mother both need to learn how to let go and forgive themselves.

I'd recommend this for older YA readers.  Some explicit sexual details (which when you thought about how she was writing this in a letter to some older guy she doesn't know was kind of weird), but it was never over the top or gratuitous.

Ketchup Clouds comes out November 12, 2013.

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