In Ketchup Clouds, Annabel Pitcher introduces what must be one of the more unusual pen-pal relationships ever set to paper. Zoe is a teenage girl living in Bath, England, and the recipient of her letters is Mr. Stuart Harris, an inmate on Texas’ death row. At first glance, the two seem to have nothing in common, but as Zoe begins to reveal her story through her letters to Stuart, readers start to understand why Zoe feels an affinity for this doomed man half a world away.

Zoe is consumed with guilt over events that happened a year ago. What should have been a fun and exciting experience—her very first time falling in love—instead resulted in heartbreak, betrayal and death. In addition to concealing her own role in this tragedy, she’s still secretly grieving and nursing a broken heart—things she imagines that Stuart, who’s been sentenced to death for murdering his wife, also must feel.

Zoe’s letters alternate between telling Stuart about her life as it is right now—complete with family dramas and ongoing attempts to avoid the dead boy’s mother—and gradually recounting the events from the year before. Throughout the novel, Pitcher delays revealing not only Zoe’s role in the death, but also the identity of the dead boy, skillfully building suspense while inciting sympathy. Ketchup Clouds is alternately romantic, sad and even surprisingly funny, as readers come to know this quirky character through her most unconventional confession.

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