Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher tells the story of Zoe, a fifteen year old girl from England who has an awful secret that she cannot share with anyone around her. She is weighed down by the guilt about the terrible thing she has done, and then she discovers the perfect person to talk to, and inmate on death row in Texas. As Zoe writes to Mr Harris, telling him all about the past year of her life, she begins to grapple with her feelings about her situation, and learns a few things about life along the way.
I really like this book, I had picked it up on a whim purely because of the title, I thought it was such an interesting one and wondered how it came about. I won't spoil the explanation for it, in case you haven't guessed already, but it is quite beautiful, and I shall be using it myself in future.
This is a teen novel, the main character is fifteen, but I don't think that this book is limited to that age at all as it has a message that can be understood by many. That message is about guilt and forgiveness, in particular forgiveness of yourself when you believe you have done wrong. Zoe battles with this throughout the book right up until it's conclusion. We read her teenage woes with a trepidation, knowing as a reader that there is something sad coming towards us, and that surely her behaviour must be the cause, but although it feels like watching a crash, you cannot help but keep reading because Zoe is just an innocent girl, and you know there must be a resolution.
The writing is simple yet elegant, the humour both suited to teenage sarcasm and wit, and the complex sense of humour of an adult. Reading it I was hard pressed not to smile at how (for want of a less derogatory word) cute everything was, even though if it had been written with adult characters it would have felt seedy and shocking.
The range of characters were interesting, we did not need many, and weren't introduced to a wide range, just enough to show multiples sides of human nature, their coping mechanisms and problems, their joy and means of expression.
I think this is a great book for if you want to read something which is both fairly simple in plot, but complex in the depth of emotion shown by the characters.
I shall definitely be looking into Pitchers other work.