(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Someone once called me the Simon Cowell of book blogging, a title which I proudly embraced. I'm notoriously hard to please, but guess what? There's someone out there who's even pickier than I am! You're shocked, I know. Jenny, who runs Alternate Readality, is that blogger. I've been a fan girl for a long time because I can always trust Jenny to tell it like it is. She's got a sharp wit, a refreshing honesty, and an abiding loyalty to her blogging friends. I love her. She rarely gushes, so when she posted a rave review of a book I'd never heard of—Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher—I knew I needed to give the novel a go. In the end, I didn't love it as much as Jenny did, but I did enjoy the book and would definitely recommend it to anyone who digs contemporary YA.
Here's the low-down:
Few people know what it's like to bear responsibility for the death of someone they love. Few people get how it feels to lug around guilt that big, that crushing. "Zoe"—a British teen—can't reveal her dark, dirty secret to anyone. No one would understand how she fell for two boys, ripped one's heart out (figuratively) and killed the other (literally). No one except another murderer. Desperate to confess to someone, "Zoe" chooses the one person who might get what she's feeling—an inmate on Death Row in a Texas prison. Through the letters she writes late at night, she tells Stuart Harris everything. He may never receive her epistles, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is "Zoe" coming to terms with the horrible thing she's done, the terrible pain she's caused, and the excruciating grief that will be her lifelong penance.
Like Jenny, I appreciate the balance that Pitcher achieves in Ketchup Clouds. Parts of the story are (believe it or not) laugh out loud funny. Other sections are weep-out-loud sad. The narrator's voice is so authentic that it resonates no matter what part of her tale she's telling. All the teens in the story seem step-right-off-the-page genuine—they are realistically thoughtless, impulsive, and fickle, which makes what happens to them all the more poignant. With impeccable pacing, Ketchup Clouds also manages to be tense and suspenseful. I never read story endings first, but I was tempted to in this case because I really, really wanted to know what happened with this ill-fated love triangle. Overall, then, Ketchup Clouds makes for a compelling read. Not a happy one or a hopeful one, but a thoughtful one that will make you think—about guilt, grief, remorse, and the eternal sting of regret. I guarantee you'll still be pondering this one long after you read its last page.
(Readalikes: Hm, I can't really think of anything. Can you?)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (no F-bombs), sexual content, and depictions of underage drinking
To the FTC, with love: Another library