Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

My review of this book is a somewhat embarrassed one, as it forces me to admit that I received a free review copy eons ago, and have only now got around to reading it. I really can’t say why that is, beyond sheer laziness on my part. I thought the concept of this book sounded awesome – a teenage girl writing to a Death Row convict about her dark and murderous secret. And yet it’s sat on my shelf, waiting and waiting for the right moment. That moment came last week, when faced with the ginormous dilemma of having to dry my hair while my Kindle was downstairs, my eyes alighted on my bookcase, and this is the one that jumped out.

First of all, this book is physically gorgeous. Held lengthwise, there are red birds printed along the edge of the pages that added a really lovely touch, and extra significance to certain plot elements. The contents though… I was a little disappointed. Based on the blurb, I wasn’t expecting it to quickly devolve into a drawn out love triangle between our narrator and two brothers. For the most part the story is a romance, and a fairly cliche and irritating one at that, where most dilemmas could be solved by better communication. Having been drawn in by the mystery angle, I found my interest waning and the book being set aside for longer periods.

The framing of the book is interesting, and sets it apart from others of this ilk. The plot is told in the form of letters to a convicted murderer, who remains a silent participant in events, even as the narrator feels a growing closeness and companionship between them. At first, I was lead to believe that the narrator was younger than intended, as she comes across as quite naive in her correspondence with this man, especially when discussing the murder of his wife and an innocent bystander.

There’s a lot going on in the background that never really reaches a resolution or pay-off. Parental marital and financial troubles, an ailing grandfather, a sister who may or may not receive a cochlear implant… by the end it mostly falls away frustratingly unanswered. My main issue overall is that one of the romantic interests, very near the beginning of the novel, takes a topless photograph of the narrator and shares it with the whole school. There’s never any serious fall-out or emotional trauma from this, parents and administrators remain unaware, and our supposed heroine gets over it in about a week, where-after it’s never mentioned again. The fact that such a serious and humiliating event was quickly brushed over didn’t sit well with me, and while I accept that some of my problems with this book come from me not being in the intended age range, I don’t think this sends a good message to readers who are.

On the whole, it was an interesting enough read to pass a few days with, and I think Pitcher has a lot of potential, but for me it was too bogged down by typical teenage romantic drama to be a stand-out.

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