Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First Published: November 2012 by Orion
Zoe Collins has a dark and terrible secret that she dares confess to no one. But the day she hears of a criminal on death row who knows all about secrets. And lies. And betrayal. Desperate to confide in someone, Zoe picks up a pen.
These are the letters that she wrote.
I want to start by saying I loved Annabel Pitcher’s debut novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. However I did not love this one nearly as much.
The main thing that struck me was the that narrator of this novel spoke / wrote in an extremely juvenile manner. This is also prominent in My Sister. The difference being that the narrator of My Sister is a five year old, whereas in Ketchup Clouds she’s supposed to be a teenager (something I struggled with until GCSEs (I think) / school was mentioned and I finally registered that actually she’s older than she sounds). This style ruined this book for me, if I’m honest, as I found it difficult to take Zoe, the narrator, seriously.
I also found this novel irritating in many ways. First of all, there is the secrecy. I understand that this is part of the story – she doesn’t want to say anything that would incriminate her. However this was just frustrating when reading it. She kept hinting at what she’d done, but it didn’t become clear until the novel was nearly finished and the lead up had been drawn out as much as it could have been. I dislike novels that keep dragging out but hinting at key events though – I remember there was another one that I read not too long ago (but I can’t remember which one it was for the life of me – typical) and I found it irritating too! It’s just something that I can’t take to in books.
I just didn’t like Zoe that much either. I found her too immature, almost childish, not in the way she acted particularly. I don’t know, I can’t really explain it! But there was a juvenile element that I think was prominent because of the narrative voice.
Sometimes I think an epistolary novel can be really successful, and nothing is lost from the story. But I felt a lot was held back due to this form throughout this book – things that could have been included and not ruined the secretive feel (which, although I didn’t particularly enjoy this aspect, I realise that it is part of the story). I did like the different idea of the letters being addressed to someone she doesn’t know however, as this did mean that I could learn more about Zoe, but at the same time she was a very unreliable narrator as for one thing she started by saying she’d given a false name… Leading me, as the reader, to question what part of the story she is telling the ‘truth’ (obviously it’s fiction, but you get what I mean!).
As I mentioned, I felt that the storyline had been dragged out a lot before the ‘event’ is revealed. Thus I found the pace too slow for me, but I do prefer books with a quicker pace as I find it difficult to pick up books where things move slowly or very little happens.
The title has very little relevance to the novel as well. The reference is in relation to her youngest sibling (Dot) and something she does that has very little consequence (I believe) in the novel. Although I think that the title is intriguing, I think that there are so many other, better options. But that’s just personal opinion and I bet many people who have read this book see relevance in that small event and as a result think the title suitable and perfect for the novel.
I think, however, I’d gotten myself too excited to read this book as I’d loved My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece so much, and it let me down. Maybe if I had read this one first I’d have enjoyed it more. I do have a friend who has read this and she really enjoyed it, and it wasn’t a bad book; it just wasn’t to my taste to be honest. I will read more of Annabel Pitcher’s novels when they are released (and when I have money to purchase them!), this hasn’t put me off. But maybe next time I’ll open one with lower expectations than I did Ketchup Clouds.
Rating: 3/5 (I didn’t hate it – I just felt let down by it).