Her highly-acclaimed, award-winning debut, My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece was undoubtedly a hard act to follow, yet Annabel Pitcher’s second novel is equally impressive.
In this unusual young adult novel, Pitcher once again creates a vivid and engaging first person narrative - this time, the story is told through a series of letters written in the frank and often funny voice of a 15-year-old girl struggling to come to terms with her crushing guilt because she is, by her own admission a murderer. Seeking redemption for her crime, Zoe begins writing to convicted murderer Stuart Harris, awaiting execution on Death Row, confessing the truth about what happened, and spilling out her feelings about a love triangle that went tragically wrong, as well as the family turmoil she has been experiencing.
An inclusive element lies in the depiction of Zoe's younger sister Dot, who is deaf. Dot is an endearing and fully-rounded character, and whilst the subject of deafness is generally dealt with naturally and casually, the book also makes a powerful comment about one of the possible causes of infant deafness and the impact on her family.
Dealing with some complex and difficult themes and issues, Ketchup Clouds is perhaps best suited to older teenage readers. Blending powerful emotion and darkness with ironic humour, it is a gripping and moving story about secrets, lies and growing up. Sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes wistful, often funny and always compassionate, this is a beautifully-crafted and unexpected coming-of-age story that will win readers’ hearts.