Looking at the cover for Nora & Kettle, you’d expect this book to be a fluffy YA contemporary right? Fluffy clouds, a kite, and a tea kettle… Yup, screams fluffy contemporary to me. Oh how WRONG I was! This book was definitely NOT what I was expecting. It was much darker and more sinister than I could ever have anticipated…
Author: Lauren Nicole Taylor
Genre: Young Adult • Historical Fiction • Retelling
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing (March 15, 2016)
“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 naïve, 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.””
*Content/Trigger Warning: child abuse – I will not be going into detail of the abuse in my review*
In hindsight I probably should have read the book description past the first paragraph… Nora and Kettle ended up centering around a topic that I am very sensitive to: child abuse. It is made pretty clear in the book description that there is abuse going on, but unfortunately I didn’t read the entire synopsis. I take full responsibility for that.
Generally I can handle books that mention or refer to child abuse, but not ones that go into graphic detail. To my dismay, this book went into graphic detail about the abuse. Not only that, but the abuse spans the majority of the book, therefore there was multiple graphic abuse scenes. To say this was a hard book for me to get through would be an understatement, but I did indeed get through it. Do I regret reading it? Not exactly, but I did contemplate not finishing on several occasions. Why did I keep pushing on? Despite the fact that I am sensitive to the content, I still feel it is important to read books like this, and I wanted to see it through.
I am going to do my best to review this book in an unbiased way and try to see it through the eyes of someone who is not sensitive to the subject of child abuse…
Taylor’s writing is absolutely gorgeous. At times, it took my breath away.
If I had wings, they would be black, thin, and feathered. Not a flat color… but iridescent. Shining with hues of purple, green and blue. Catching the light with the barest fingertips. And when I needed, I could fold into the darkest shadows and hide.
While reading Nora & Kettle it was very clear to me that Taylor has great potential as a writer. She is one of those authors who has a way of stringing words together that give the writing a lyrical quality. Aside from her beautiful writing, I felt like the characters were well developed and the two separate stories held my attention. I also appreciated that the romance was a slow-burn and not a main component to the plot, but secondary.
In regards to the fact that Nora & Kettle is a Peter Pan retelling, I would consider it less a retelling, and more like the story was inspired by Peter Pan. There really wasn’t enough of the Peter Pan elements to consider it a retelling in my opinion, but I could definitely see where the author drew inspirations from the story. I liked the balance of the parallels the author drew from the original Peter Pan story, with the original content that made this its own story.
Despite all the potential, the plotline felt off to me. I found that all the attention given to Nora’s abuse took away from Kettle’s story. I personally found myself more drawn to Kettle’s story and wanted more attention given to his plight. This could be caused by the fact that Nora’s story included a topic I’m sensitive to, but I feel like Kettle’s story had so much potential. I wanted to know more about his life in the interment camps, more about the lost boys, more about the racism he experienced as a Japanese American during this time, etc. Because so much of the book was centered around Nora’s abuse, I don’t really feel like the separate stories meshed well together, which gave the book a disjointed feeling.
What originally drew me to picking this one up was that some of the characters in the book had, at one time, been confined in interment camps. I loved that the characters in this story showed some of the aftermath of the interment of Japanese Americans during WWII and portrayed some of the psychological effect this had on them. This is such an important part of history that tends to be glossed over in U.S. history books… probably because it makes us look bad, which it should. Unfortunately, the author gave zero background information about the interment camps and why the characters were placed in them in the first place. We only get small flashbacks of life in the camp through the characters’ eyes, but we don’t get any actual historical context. If you are not familiar with this event in history, you would have to look it up to see what the author is talking about.
I’m very conflicted with Taylor’s portrayal of child abuse. On one hand, I think she did a tremendous job of putting the reader in the victims head and showing the audience the mental ramifications of abuse. We are also shown that child abusers do not fit into some mold. People who abuse children are men, women, rich, poor, extroverted, introverted, etc. etc. Often times those who abuse children are the people we would never suspect. The author also address the conflict many children feel over the person that is abusing them. Oftentimes children who are abused are abused by their parents, so it’s a love/hate relationship. I think Taylor really did a good job shedding some light on such a horrific occurrence. On the flip side, I really do think the author may have went a little overboard with all the graphic abuse scenes. Personally, when you have such a hard topic like this I belong to the philosophy that “less is more.” Would I have felt this way if I was not already sensitive? Yes, I think I would. In my opinion, it would have been just an impactful to have one fairly graphic scene, then leave the rest to the reader’s imagination.
Setting aside the fact that this book included a topic that I am sensitive to, I still feel like the book had some shortcomings. I would liked to have seen more balance between Nora & Kettle’s stories, less focus on the graphic abuse scenes, and more historical context. I think these things would have helped balance the book out a bit and made the two separate stories come together in a more seamless way.
***If you suspect child abuse, please call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). This hotline serves the U.S. (and its territories) and Canada. The hotline operates 24/7.***
Since this book contained a topic I am sensitive to, I will not be giving this book a rating as it wouldn’t be fair to the book.