Book Reviews

Review: Nora & Kettle By Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Published: March 15th 2016 by Clean Teen Publishing 


Series: Paper Stars #1


Source: Local Library


Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fairy Tale Retellings


Synopsis: “What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?”


Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having “one drop of Japanese blood in them” things are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.

Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to naive, eighteen-year-old Nora the privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.

For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.

In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.

Set in 1953, Nora & Kettle explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, “a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.”

Spoiler Free Review:

TRIGGER WARNING FOR PHYSICAL ABUSE. 

When I first heard of this book from LovingDemBooks, I was like, “Yep. Never gonna read that.” Little did know it would become one of my favorites of 2016.  Initially, I expected a story where a Peter Pan esque character that whisks away our Wendy like character to some Never Land and they fall in love. Not my cup of tea.  I guess I should not only not judge a book by its cover, but its synopsis as well. Lesson learned. I wouldn’t call this a direct retelling, more like it is loosely based off of the original tale. Either way, this book was a brilliantly crafted story. 


One of my absolute favorite aspects was the writing. The author has beautiful prose and it is very lyrical. There is also quite a bit of figurative language incorporated, which I personally adore. I felt like the writing resonated with the characters, specifically the figurative language. The two main protagonists have very difficult lives and the metaphors managed to capture their emotions perfectly.


The setting takes place in the 1950s after World War II has ended. But the oppression continues. I love that the author took the stories from her grandparents to bring back a part of history that isn’t discussed. At school, students delve deep into the Holocaust, which is wonderful and important as well. However, the Japanese Americans that were placed in internment camps are briefly spoken about and are merely brushed over. This is a part of history that should be acknowledged and discussed. Anyway, I really appreciated the author for weaving a fairytale at a pivotal and forgotten time in history. 


Besides the writing, the characters are beautifully crafted as well. Nora is the naive, rich girl. Or so it seems. It may seem like she is a weak character, but Nora is truly a strong protagonist. The amount of abuse Nora endured was horrendous. It was so heartbreaking and very painful to read. She sacrificed so much and is enduring this abuse to protect her little sister, which takes a lot of courage. Nora was very naive, but not snobby at all. She was inquisitive and quiet. Even if she grew up privileged, she would try to understand where the Lost Children came from and I came to appreciate her. 


Then there is Kettle, who I adored as soon as he was introduced. He is Japanese American, which is awesome because we have a person of color as one of the protagonists. I love how he is completely different than Peter Pan from the original tale. Personally, I hated Peter Pan’s personality. Rather than being conceited, Kettle is compassionate and kind. He tries to help people and thinks of others before himself. He was also not in any way stereotyped because of his race. Additionally, Kettle has been through a lot in his past, especially with the internment camps. I loved seeing him develop and grow from what he has been through.


I also adored the relationship Kettle had with his adoptive brother/friend. It was interesting to see the contrast between these two characters and their dynamic. Kin was more prideful and rash whereas Kettle was a lot more humble and tended to blend into the background. Together they had this wonderful dynamic. They were like parabatai, incomplete without the other. Then there was Nora and Kettle’s relationship. I do think their relationship developed a little too quickly and I would’ve liked a bigger time span. Either way, they had a connection. Their pain and loss brought them closer. They realized they are more alike than different and are not alone in their struggles. I cannot wait to see more of Nora and Kettle develop and grow, both separately and together.


All in all, I was surprised by how much I adored this story. I cannot recommend enough and I hope that the sequel arrives fast because I need it ASAP. 

Rating: 4.95/5

 
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