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Ketchup Clouds

by by Annabel Pitcher

School Library Journal Gr 8 Up-Sitting alone in her shed, "Zoe" writes letters to a Death Row inmate in Texas, confessing her belief that she's responsible for the death of a boy in her British town. Since he's a murderer, too, she believes he should understand her feelings of guilt and regret. Using a pseudonym and a fake address, Zoe tells her pen pal how she met and developed crushes on two brothers, Max and Aaron, and how things went terribly wrong. All but the last section of the book is told entirely through her letters, which chronicle her physical relationship with Max, her burgeoning crush on Aaron, and her interactions with the dead boy's mother. Her narrative also describes her dying grandfather, squabbling parents, deaf youngest sister, and a middle sister who's reporting increasingly serious bullying problems at school. As her correspondent's execution date nears, Zoe approaches her story's denouement. The twist on a familiar epistolary format is interesting if somewhat overstretched, and transitions between past and present are sometimes unclear. A subplot about Zoe's mother's work/life balance issues seems somewhat too adult, but the ambiguity of the dead boy's identity keeps readers turning pages. Overall, this title will be enjoyed by teens seeking edgy, realistic fiction with elements of romance and suspense.-Jill Ratzan, I. L. Peretz Community Jewish School, Somerset, NJ (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Pitcher (My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece) delivers a taut epistolary novel about a British teenager who writes to a Texas death row inmate and confesses her guilt in a murder: "You killed someone you were supposed to love and I killed someone I was supposed to love, and we both understand the pain and the fear and the sadness and the guilt and the hundred other feelings that don't even have a name in all of the English language." Though the writer invents her name, Zoe, there's nothing false about her one-way letters that gradually reveal her turbulent and destructive romance with two brothers, Max and Aaron, which ends in a death. Pitcher (who won the 2013 Waterstone's Children's Book Prize for this novel) thrusts Zoe into charged situations (her parents' strain over her deaf sister and her father's unemployment heighten the conflict), and Zoe's guilt casts a chill on her relationship with the boys' mother. Zoe's introspective and surprisingly humorous voice will strike a chord with readers as they dwell on the space between guilt and innocence. Ages 12-up. Agent: Catherine Clarke, Felicity Bryan Associates. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list *Starred Review* Pitcher, author of the well-received My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece (2012), delivers a novel that is by turns heartbreaking and hilarious. Here, 15-year-old Zoe writes to a Death Row inmate in Texas. She empathizes with him and wants to share her story after all, she killed someone, too. From the garden shed of her home in England, Zoe (not her real name) pens lengthy letters to Stuart Harris offering snapshots from the previous year: how she met a boy with beautiful brown eyes named Aaron; how, before their feelings for each other were verbalized, she kissed, and then dated, his brother, Max; how Aaron and Zoe kept up the facade of Max and Zoe to protect Max. But one of the brothers ends up dead this much we know but we don't know which one, or how Zoe was involved, until the very end. The suspense is palpable, and Zoe's voice is witty and introspective as she explores issues relating to family, grief, and love. With each new letter, Zoe writes more familiarly, addressing Mr. Harris as My dearest Stu and signing with Love, as the clock counts down to the inmate's execution day. While there are a couple of missteps at the very end including an anticlimactic family revelation there's no denying the emotional resonance of this bittersweet novel.--Kelley, Ann Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.