I absolutely loved Annabel Pitcher's debut novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece when I read it last year so I was incredibly excited to get my hands on an early copy of her second novel Ketchup Clouds. This book jumped straight to the top of my to read pile as soon as it arrived but I'll admit that I was slightly nervous it wouldn't live up to my expectations. Thankfully my worries were proved unfounded and I loved every minute of it!
Our narrator for Ketchup Clouds is fifteen year old Zoe, a teenager who has a horrible secret that has been weighing on her conscience for nearly a year. She is too scared to talk to anyone she knows about the things that she has done but when she finds out about criminals on death row who are looking for pen pals she feels like she has found someone to confide in. Stuart Harris is on death row after committing a murder and Zoe believes that he will be able to understand the guilt she feels. The story is told through a series of letters that Zoe writes to Stuart over a period of several months, her honest account of her life and the terrible events that ended with the death of a young man is touching, humorous and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Annabel Pitcher manages to create such realistic voices for her teenage characters, I felt the same about My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece but I think I found it even easier to identify with Zoe than I did with Jamie. Zoe is a normal teenager, she likes hanging out with her friends, loves her family and she dreams having of her first kiss and her first boyfriend. Her letters are a completely honest and give insight into her family life along with the trials and tribulations that come with being a teenager and falling in love for the first time. I dare anyone who reads the book not to fall head over heels for her adorable little sister Dot, she has to be one of the cutest fictional five year olds that I've ever come across!
I don't want to say any more about the plot or give away Zoe's secret but I felt that the story unfolded at a perfect pace. You are given just enough information to keep you hooked but still kept on tenterhooks until the very end of the book as you wait to see exactly what happened on that fateful day the previous year. I didn't pick up this book intending to finish it in one sitting but that is exactly what I did - I just couldn't tear myself away from Zoe's story and her heartfelt letters. Ketchup Clouds made me smile, it made me laugh out loud, it touched me emotionally and even made me shed a tear, it is a beautifully written story and one I'm sure I'll be recommending for a long time to come. Annabel Pitcher is an author who is going to go far and I can't wait to read her next book.