Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret—a dark and terrible secret that she can’t confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.
Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can—in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal
Here we go!
Ketchup Clouds is about a girl who writes a letter to Stuart, a man on death row, and confides her secrets to him under a fake name (Zoe Collins) and address so no reply can be written to her.
So before I read Ketchup Clouds, I saw a lot of negative reviews that put me off the book, but I have to say I really enjoyed it! Ketchup Clouds kept me hooked all the way until the last chapter wanting to discover the details of Zoe’s secret and discover the fates of the rest of the characters! Ketchup Clouds will draw you in from the first sentence and won’t let you go until the end of the book!
Dear Mr. S. Harris,
Ignore the blob of red in the top left corner. It’s jam, not blood, though I don’t think I need to tell you the difference. It wasn’t your wife’s jam the police found on your shoe.
The whole book is narrated by Zoe and the reader follows her struggle with her guilt. I found his aspect of Zoe incredibly relatable and I’m sure most readers would feel the same way. (I’m sure everyone has done something bad that they have regretted, but have been scared of telling the truth and facing the consequences and therefore have kept it a secret and lived with the burden. I know I have!)
I know what it’s like… Mine was a boy. And I killed him. Three months ago exactly… No one has a clue and I’m walking around like that boy, Scot Free, saying all the right things and doing all the right stuff, but inside I’m sort of screaming,”
One of the things I found most interesting about this book was the way it explored capital punishment. Both Stuart and Zoe are guilty of taking a life and both greatly regret what they did. Stuart has been honest about his crime and is being ‘rewarded’ with the death penalty, whereas Zoe’s dishonesty lets her walk free. Ketchup Clouds allowed me to think deeply about the American justice system.
Stuart was also a really fascinating character who was very important to the story. While he never responds to any letters Zoe writes, Zoe becomes increasingly closer to him over the course of the novel she goes from writing “Dear Mr S Harris” to “My dearest Stu”.
I’m not the biggest fan of love triangles as I often find the girl or boy at the centre to be very selfish. This one was particularly infuriating because of a certain little development on page 89 that I really don’t want to spoil! Let’s just say you’ll be very surprised! (But seriously don’t let the love triangle put you off the book!)
Zoe’s family were a really interesting part of the story. For example her little sister Dot is deaf so she uses sign language, something I’ve never seen in a YA book before!
Also this book included some fandom references such as cats called Lloyd and Webber and multiple Harry Potter references such as when she says to Stuart:
“Harry Potter has a scar and glasses and you have a scar and glasses and he never got any post either. But then all of a sudden he received a mysterious letter saying he was a wizard and his life was miraculously transformed.”
Overall Ketchup Clouds is a great read that I would recommend to all fans of young adult literature, especially those looking for something different and unique!
(So I’m trying to come up with a more accurate system for rating books as with a normal rating system there are only 5 options! So I may be trying out some new ideas! I’m rating the book in different categories that I think are important which will give it a score out of 100)
21/25 – The plot was very interesting and kept me constantly hooked!
17/20 – I sometimes found myself infuriated with Zoe (as I often am with characters in love triangles) but I still found her story fascinating. The guilt she feels throughout the book
13/15 – I was really satisfied with the ending as it ties up most of the loose strings and yet also gives the reader space to imagine
4/10 – Love triangles usually annoy me and this one was no different, but by the end of the book I grew to really like each boy
10/10 I absolutely love the beautiful cover to this book and it reflects the book really well
9/10 Whilst the romance was sometimes predictable and similar to many other books, the book as a whole was like nothing I’ve ever read before
7/10 This book is written in the form of letters which I really liked! Also there are doodles on some of the pages, something that isn’t that common in YA books. Also some copies have beautiful birds on the side of the book (which I just thought was nice!)
So I give this book 81% overall!