Zoe Collins is a teenager with a dark secret in Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher. The kind of secret that puts a shadow over her whole life, the kind that sits heavy on her shoulders and can’t be ignored. She is afraid of telling the truth to the people in her life, terrified of what might happen. So, in an effort to free herself from the darkness, she starts writing letters to a man on Death Row. The book is a compilation of those letters, sent over thousands of miles, to the only person she could think of who might have a bigger, darker secret than hers.
Through her letters, as Zoe recounts the events of the past year of her life, we meet her family, her two younger sisters Dot and Sophie, and their mostly warring parents who have a secret of their own. Zoe is at her best as a big sister, and there are some beautiful sisterly moments in the book, one in particular where Zoe and her sister Sophie are hiding in their parents closet sharing secrets in the dark.
The brilliance of this book, however, is in the fallibility of the characters, Zoe in particular, who is far from perfect, and at times, even unlikeable. It is through her mistakes and innocence that her humanity shines through and as the book progresses you can’t help but feel compassion for the misguided girl and the burden she carries.
Ketchup Clouds is the kind of book that fills you with intrigue before you’ve even finished the first page, and holds you in its grip until the very end. It is sad and funny and sweet at once; a quiet testimony to family life, to young love, and to mistakes.
Available now: Hachette RRP$29.99