Ketchup Clouds

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small lemon 0.5small3.5 out of 5 lemons

This story had a lot of promise. For me, it was a bit disappointing, like expecting exploding, sky-high fireworks and only getting hand-held Sparklers. Still bright, fun, and mild amusement, but not a showstopper with the gawking, clapping, and ohs-and-ahs.

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret that no one else knows, except for Stuart Harris, a death-row criminal in Texas, who has read her post. Zoe confesses her story of romance, betrayal, and murder to the man in America through written letters. Putting her story on paper allows Zoe to acknowledge and accept the haunting choices she has made that have changed everything she knows.

I might have been expecting more, since this book has been nominated and won many literary awards, such as:

  • Edgar Award for Best Young Adult (2014)
  • Carnegie Medal in Literature Nominee (2014)
  • Leeds Book Award (2014)
  • Gouden Lijst for vertaald boek (2015)
  • Waterstones Children’s Book Prize (2013)

I listened to the audiobook version of this story, and I was impressed by the voice of Zoe. The voice actress truly captures the personality of the character, tone of the story, and conveys the events with spot-on inflection. I have no reservations in recommending the audiobook, as this book translates well into that format.

As for the story itself, I also expected more from the story, based on the premise that Zoe would be writing to a death-row inmate. I wanted interaction between the two characters. Instead, this story reads like a diary of a young girl who is conflicted with having a relationship with two brothers. I understand she relates to Stuart because of his criminal record, and revealing this to the audience allows readers to reflect on the seriousness of her crimes (until you realize that it’s not as bad as you think).

Aside from that disappointment, I loved the unique characters and most of the dialogue. Max is deeper than you think, Aaron is charming and creative, Zoe is childlike and endearing. I also enjoyed that we see more of Zoe’s family, more than the romance itself. Giving Zoe a struggling, realistic family made this book, and that is where the true conflict for this story lies. Zoe’s parents, the looming idea of divorce, family death, sibling bonds, and parenting are some of the factors that added dimension and appeal to the story. Sometimes being together is hard – life is hard – but somewhere, there is a silver lining to that ketchup cloud.

If you like this book, you may like: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.

Other than that, I wanted to quickly plug AudioFile, presenting Sync, a program that gives away two complete audiobook downloads — a current Young Adult title paired thematically with a Classic or Required Summer Reading title — each week to listeners ages 13+ while SYNC is in session each summer.

Check out this site and which audiobooks you can download each week for free: