Release Date: November 12th, 2013
Cover Impressions: I was not aware until just now, but this appears to be a novel that was published in the UK and now is being released in North America. The top image is the original and the bottom is the new cover (as far as I can tell). I have got to say, they certainly got it right with the second cover. It is really unique and interesting. I love how it almost looks like one of those weird baby-posed-as-if-he-is-standing photoshoots.
The Gist: Ketchup Clouds begins with a letter to an inmate on death row. Zoe (real name withheld) is writing to Stuart Harris - convicted killer of two - in order to confess her crimes to someone who might understand the depths of her betrayal. Through her letters, she reveals how she became involved with two brothers and the consequences of her playing with a pair of hearts.
I was first intrigued by Ketchup Clouds because the synopsis offered an interesting persepctive - that of a teenage girl, writing a convicted killer in order to confess her own role in a tragedy. The letter format is interesting and the narrator's voice is unique. She speaks very matter-of-factly, even though she is clearly burdened by her secret. Naming herself Zoe, the main narrator shifts backward and forward in time in order to describe her present guilt and her past transgressions. This roundabout way in which Zoe tells her story adds suspense in a very natural way, without interrupting the flow of the narration.
As a character, Zoe seems like a typical teenage girl. She feels oppressed by an overbearing mother and burdened by the constant fighting between her parents. In an effort to gain some independence, she begins lying to her parents and this theme permeates the book as more and more untruths get Zoe into more and more trouble. I very much enjoyed the realistic portrayal of a modern-day family. Zoe has two younger sisters, one who is deaf and enjoys the bulk of her mother's attention and one who is not and has begun acting out. The parents argue over some very serious issues, but we do get to watch them work together to create some sense of harmony. I did feel that this particular portion of the story was a little too easily solved and I am not sure that, beyond the scope of this story, the family would remain intact.
There was also a character whose behavior gave me serious pause. Sandra, Max and Aaron's mother. Throughout the "presentday" portion of the narration her actions become more and more erratic and alarming. She called Zoe far more often than is appropriate and would show up unannounced. I realize that she is being portrayed as the grieving mother, but I simply could not understand why Zoe's parents did not step in and deny her access to their child. I also found it incredibly creepy that Zoe was writing this story to a convicted murderer on death row. It was particularly upsetting when she began describing her sexual exploration. I couldn't help picturing this grown man and how he would react to these descriptions of sexual play among teenagers. It was more than a little unsettling for me, particularly because I teach teenagers Zoe's age.
I really enjoyed Pitcher's writing style and the unique idea behind this particular story. Sign me up for her next book!
Age: 13 and up
Sex: Kissing, Heavy Petting
Violence: Fighting, Death by Drowning
Inappropriate Language: Tits, Bitch, Bastard, Slut,
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking,