Synopsis from Goodreads.
Secrets, romance, murder and lies: Zoe shares a terrible secret in a letter to a stranger on death row in this second novel from the author of the bestselling debut, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.
Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret—a dark and terrible secret that she can’t confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.
Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can—in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal.
Oyy.. here goes nothing.
So, I have to admit, I’m extremely underwhelmed by this book. I’ve never read My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece but I’ve heard it’s great. It never really appealed to me though, I’m not sure why.
But Ketchup Clouds appealed to me, really it did. I was captivated by the gorgeous cover, the wonderful title and the intriguing synopsis.
I guess you know what they say: you shouldn’t judge a book by a gorgeous cover, a wonderful title and… well, you get the gist.
This was such a disappointment. There was far too much going on, so many issues and drama smushed into a story that everything seemed to be watered down. When I’m reading a book, I’d much rather a few issues were dealt with thoroughly and completely so I can be completely invested in them as opposed to thousands, cluttering up my brain. To me anyway, it often felt that just as I was feeling one storyline, I was whipped away to try and deal with another thing.
I also had a bit of a problem with the whole letter writing to death row. In theory, excellent. In practice…. Not so much. It just didn’t seem to fit at all with the style of writing or the subjects that the story was covering. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it could’ve been a sixteen year old girl’s diary, full of angst and drama about boys and kissing. If you had taken out the references to death row and Stuart’s crime, I honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.
And speaking of angst and drama about boys and kissing. Urgh…this next bit is going to be a spoiler so… just watch out.
SPOILERS FOR THIS BOOK AND, RATHER BIZARELY, MOCKINGJAY BY SUZANNE COLLINS.
I’m reluctant to call the relationships in Ketchup Clouds a love triangle, because they’re not. Not really anyway. Not in the sense of usual love triangles. But it was just as frustrating. As above with not really staying long enough on one issue to really get a feel for it, it was the same with the relationships between Zoe and The Brothers (capital letters, I feel, are necessary). It felt like we didn’t get a glimpse into either relationship for me to really root for either of them.
That being said, my favourite character in this whole book was Max. And that will probably mean a lot more to people who have read this book and will, hopefully, understand why I was so disappointed at the end. I really disliked how Ms Pitcher built him up as something (crisps on his chin *sigh*) for the majority of the book just to completely tear that apart and assassinate his character. It really reminded me of Gale in Mockingjay and you know how I feel about Mockingjay. And this is my problem when it comes to having more than one love interest in a book, only one of them is going to win. And the easiest way of doing that is throwing in some flimsy (and in my opinion, unnecessary) drama that makes it impossible not to hate one of them, so you have to be on the side of the boy that the author wanted you to side with from the start.
But maybe I just have a soft spot for boys who do jigsaw puzzles.
The best love triangles, and I say this with a scowl on my face because no love should be triangular, are when you have no idea who will ‘win’.
END OF SPOILERS AND MOCKINGJAY RAGE.
However, I absolutely adored Zoe’s family. It’s obvious that Ms Pitcher has an eye for family dynamics and depicts them wonderfully, flaws and all. I was so fascinated by their interactions and I just wanted to get back to them when we were elsewhere in the story. It frustrated me that we only got brief glimpses of them, like you’re watching TV and the signal keeps going, coming back on when the episode has gone on a few scenes and you can’t help but think that you’ve missed something important.
I really apologise for being so grouchy in this review but I’m just so disappointed. And I’ll be the first to admit that I can be pretty brutal when it comes to books that disappoint me.
But… even though this book was not for me, I have a feeling it will be for about 97% of you.
Because that is the exact* percentage of people I know who adored The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. These two books, to me, are very similar. Both in writing style and subject matter. So if you are one of the 97% who loved Ms Nelson’s writing, then I urge you to pick this one up because I think you’ll like it.