Review: Ketchup Clouds - Annabel Pitcher

Release Date: November 12th 2013
Published By: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 272
Goodreads: Add it to your reading list

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: Dear Mr. S. 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. It wasn’t your wife’s jam the police found on your shoe. . . .

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.

Rising literary star Annabel Pitcher pens a captivating second novel, rich with her distinctive balance between humor and heart. Annabel explores the themes of first love, guilt, and grief, introducing a character with a witty voice and true emotional resonance.

Review: What a charmer. There’s quite a lot of things I really liked about Ketchup Clouds, and I’ll talk about those things in this review. But firstly, about the novel itself. It’s a uniquely told story in that we’re reading this novel through a series of one way letters from an English girl who calls herself Zoe (not her real name, but that’s how I’ll refer to her throughout) to Stuart Harris, a murderer who is sitting on death row in Texas, USA. This in itself was enough to pique my interest and made me want to read this novel. But it becomes more interesting.

Zoe chose to write to Mr Harris because she identifies with him. He murdered his wife after she cheated on him, and Zoe writes him saying that she also murdered someone, and that’s why he doesn’t know her real name or address to write back. What follows is a story about what happened, but we’re also given some of the pieces of what’s been happening since that time too to put together.

Don’t be fooled by the cover that looks carefree and fluffy. This is not the fluffy book that it comes across as. And I really liked that surprise. One thing I actually loved about this book was when I picked it up I was thinking “Ketchup Clouds?! What kind of a title is that?” Honestly after reading it it’s the best kind of title, because it’s relevant to the story and there’s a bit of a back story to it. I am not going to explain what it means, because whilst it’s not a spoiler, I really liked being able to discover this for myself. I think this is a little bit of a gem for readers to enjoy.

Zoe our protagonist, is hard not to like. In the first chapter she’s declaring herself a murderer and so by rights we shouldn’t like her. However, she writes with such brutal honesty and doesn’t leave out any of the details, and I couldn’t help but find this quality in her really endearing. I just like her voice in general and liked her as a person. Not that it’s imperative when I am reading a novel, but likability certainly is a factor that helped make this book all the more enjoyable to me.

The brothers. Sigh. Aaron and Max. I am going to say something that I don’t know if many people will support, but I actually really liked both characters. I kinda got the vibe that Max is painted as the villain in this novel, but I saw more in him than just the sleazy brother who wants a bit of action. I actually see a really sensitive, emotionally fragile guy who wants to feel loved but doesn’t necessarily want to put himself in a vulnerable position with Zoe because he already feels vulnerable enough in his family life. He puts on a show that he is a tough guy, but my favourite part of this book is when Zoe finds a jigsaw puzzle under his bed, which they work on together, showing that he has a contemplative and introverted side to him that he doesn’t want others to know about.

And Aaron was so different to Max, but so very amazing also. Whilst the brothers can easily be described as “chalk and cheese”, they both had qualities in them that I really loved. When it came down to who was better for Zoe though, I feel like Aaron wins. He understood her jokes, they had really witty banter with each other and it was more than a physical attraction between the two of them. I loved that there was a tangible love triangle in this book. It wasn’t just flirting, she has something real with both of these brothers.

I adored that once things became clear to us (the reader), we still don’t know who it was that dies until the last 2 chapters of the novel. We know since chapter 1 that Zoe says she murdered someone, but this remains a secret to us until the very end. Whilst I fetched a guess, you’re only given a 50/50 option and that suspense actually puts us in the same shoes as Mr Harris himself.

I was a little disappointed by the ending, but not because I didn’t feel the author did a good job. I totally get the reasons why it ends why it ends, and I agree actually that it probably was the right way to end it. I think my reaction is based solely on my selfish emotions and wanting more. Which is actually a compliment to Annabel Pitcher for making me feel all the feels. You broke my heart. It was amazing.

A sweet, endearing, honest contemporary YA novel with a dark twist. I would highly recommend this one!


“Let’s pretend for just one moment that could actually happen. You close your eyes and I’ll close mine and let’s dream the same dream across the Atlantic, lighting up the darkness between us. Can you see it, Stu? Can you see us up there, shining in all the black?”

“That’s not how you’re going to live, Bird Girl. Not on my account. Spread those strong wings of yours. Fly.”

“We didn’t speak, just drove out of the city into the countryside on our way to absolutely nowhere, and when we found that perfect spot among the trees, we stopped and looked at each other. Swallows swooped through the red sky, back from their adventure, and we held each other underneath the ketchup clouds, willing time to stop and the world to forget us for a while.”

Book Trailer:


What do you think?

  • Great review Melissa! Ever since spotting this book at my local bookstore I have wanted to read this for ages. I’m glad to hear the story is equally as good, I really find the dark twist intriguing.

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

  • WOW! This book looks so exciting, I just have to read this one now. What a great review, Melissa! I have heard so many good things about this one, that I just feel like i have to read it as well!

    • Melissa says:

      Yeah it was a surprise package for me, cause I wanted it to be awesome, and it was - but it gave me more than I expected (a different spin). I hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick it up too!

  • Carolyn says:

    Great review and sounds like a really interesting book. Another to add to my ever increasing to-read list I guess.

    Kind of reminds me of The Sin-Eater’s Confession by Ilsa J Bick in that it is in letter forms

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