“I don’t want to talk about the rain or the trees or the…guilt I feel every single minute of every single day. And if I write it all down, I want to do it in pencil so I can rub it straight back out again, erasing that whole part of my life so it smudges into nothing and I can start again,” (Pitcher 224-225).
Zoe has become penpals with Mr. Stuart Harris, a Texas Death Row inmate awaiting capital punishment for killing his wife. But he’s the only one who really understands Zoe, since both of them have committed crimes of passion. In a dark garden shed Zoe composes her letters, her confession to Stuart, explaining how it all began with two boys, one she betrayed, one she killed, and how she hides it all away.
Ketchup Clouds has been on my TBR for a long while and now that I’ve finally read it, I can confidently say that it was okay. The strongest thing about it is its voice, Pitcher does an excellent job with Zoe’s voice, and I loved reading from her perspectives and being tuned into her insights. Zoe really felt like a teen, and even if reading about her romances were annoying, it felt appropriate. Overdramatic, end of the world kind of stuff that can only really be felt at fourteen. Even if Zoe’s romances go in a slightly more unexpected direction than a typical teen romance, the beginning stages felt right. Awkwardness, angst, though it definitely gets into some problematic areas that are never really addressed. When Zoe first meets Max and things get hot and heavy at a party, they’re both drunk, and later Max takes a photo of her in her bra that gets circulated around school and isn’t talked about with NEARLY as much importance as it should.
Some people are saying the romance in this book is a love triangle, but it really isn’t, just another YA buzzword that people love to (incorrectly) throw around.
I truly think Ketchup Clouds would have been a way more interesting novel if it was just a contemporary coming-of-age novel about Zoe and her family, because Zoe’s family was SO INTERESTING! There’s Dot, her deaf younger sister, her moody middle sister Soph whose being bullied, her parents are fighting, and her dad wants her and her sisters to be in contact with their estranged grandfather after he has a stroke which Zoe’s mother forbids over some incident in the past. All of that was interesting, I was much more curious about the family dynamics and stresses that Zoe’s family was experiencing than the romance that ended up being the focus of the novel. And the revelation that comes from Zoe’s family life is SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING than finding out who she killed, when I tell you my jaw dropped! But because the focus is on romance instead of family life, the family stuff gets all neatly fixed at the end and the romance and murder is just…meh.
The title also makes no sense. Is it a pretty image? Yes. But the term ketchup clouds is only used twice in the novel: once when Dot is playing around with her breakfast and once at the end with Zoe and her boy. Maybe if there were more references to it or if ketchup clouds had some significance, but as it was the renamed Yours Truly works better.
Ketchup Clouds is well-written but ultimately disappointing. I hope Pitcher focuses more on writing about family dynamics in her books because that’s where the strength lay in this one and it was a shame we only got glimpses of that.
Publication: December 27 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 272 pages (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, YA, Romance, Mystery
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤.5
Zoe has an unconventional pen pal–Mr. Stuart Harris, a Texas Death Row inmate and convicted murderer. But then again, Zoe has an unconventional story to tell. A story about how she fell for two boys, betrayed one of them, and killed the other.
Hidden away in her backyard shed in the middle of the night with a jam sandwich in one hand and a pen in the other, Zoe gives a voice to her heart and her fears after months of silence. Mr. Harris may never respond to Zoe’s letters, but at least somebody will know her story–somebody who knows what it’s like to kill a person you love. Only through her unusual confession can Zoe hope to atone for her mistakes that have torn lives apart, and work to put her own life back together again.