Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor (2016)
YA Fiction | Historical | Light RomanceBlurb:
“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.”
Expected Publication Date: March 15, 2016
pooled ink Review:
First of all I’d just like to say that I love the cover. It’s so simple, symbolic, and utterly perfect! Props to the cover artist 🙂 Now for the pages sewn in-between…
Wow this book hit me like a ton of bricks. Sure it has bits of Peter Pan inspiration slipped between its pages but honestly the story stands on its own. Taylor has written a story so filled with hope, fear, survival, love, and pain that it requires a moment of silence, a quiet tear wiped quickly away, and then a small smile growing out of true hope.
Nora & Kettle is told between alternating points of view: Kettle and Nora. This writing decision was perfect for this story as it truly enhanced the storytelling giving a wider scope into the world and a deeper look into the characters. I expected Kettle and Nora to meet much sooner than they did (they don’t officially meet until at least halfway into the book) but even though they didn’t exchange names for a long while they did bump into each other periodically and unknowingly. Their lives were intertwined far before they knew it. This paired with the alternating POVs gave insight into perspective, context, assumptions, and prejudice. Two people at the same place at the same time, and yet each one views the event drastically differently, neither having all the information and each influenced by their own history.
Abuse is a heavy topic occurring throughout the whole book from start to finish. It’s difficult to read or to truly let your mind take in. I just wanted to skip past it, shove it aside, run away, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t do that because it wouldn’t be right. Maybe this is just a book but for others it’s not. The topic is something so sensitive, something everyone is so reluctant to believe…but it’s real and hiding from it does nothing but worsen the reality.
Such scenes were written truthfully, harshly, and thrown bare into the open for readers to witness. I felt that Taylor did a skillful job at portraying how such a thing affects different people: the victims, family, staff, doctors, police, strangers… Many people are aware, many hide, many cower frightened, many are oblivious, and many do nothing to help those at such a loss to help themselves. Too often people snap about how victims should just leave, like duh. But this book really did a good job at showing how it’s so much more complicated than that. It also shows how abuse can leave its scars. Just because the abuser is gone physically doesn’t mean they don’t linger in the victim’s mind and soul. But not everything is so tragic because despite the horrors of Nora’s life she finds good people, she finds strength within herself, and she places her feet upon a long difficult path of hope and recovery.
Really, Nora is so strong. Having strong feminist characters is all the rage in the literary world right now but they usually come in the form of badass assassins, or tough leaders who topple corrupt governments, etc. But Nora is one of the strongest characters I’ve read in a long time, definitely as strong as any other I’ve read about. Kettle may help her but he doesn’t take it upon himself to save her, even though he very much wishes he could (that scene in the King hideout when secrets tumble out and Nora kneels down in fear and anticipation truly broke my heart. It’s a scene that really struck me and caused tears I didn’t know were hiding to slip down my cheeks). Nora seizes Kettle’s kindness and uses it to stand up and balance on her own two feet, taking a job on the docks disguised as a man, facing her abuser, doing whatever it takes to protect her little sister, and finding the courage and will to forge a new life.
Nora’s story looks into the seemingly perfect lives of the rich only to find that it’s filled with hate and horror. Kettle’s story looks into the sad unfair lives of homeless street kids only to find that it’s filled with its own form of freedom and kindness. Taylor does nothing to deny the luxuries of Nora’s wealthy life, nor the racism or hardships of Kettle’s street life. She does, however, succeed in getting people to understand that life is more complicated than that. People are more than their economic status. People are more than their race. People are more than what others judge or assume them to be.
Kettle’s story is equally important to Nora’s but somehow still seems to play second fiddle to it. Not sure why, perhaps it’s just because I’m a girl so I associate closer to a female character? Or perhaps the images of Nora’s on-going abuse just stand out harsher in my mind? But regardless, Kettle’s story is equally tragic, unjust, and important. He’s a Japanese-American who lost his childhood in an internment camp and now lives on the streets always in danger of being captured by the police or attacked for no other reason than his race. It’s so infuriatingly unfair it makes me furious.
The thing is it is far too often forgotten that the USA ever had internment camps built for Japanese on the same level as the early camps built for Jews by the Nazis. It’s disgusting and shameful and far too often overlooked and brushed over by our history books. We know about the segregation of blacks and whites and the whole civil rights movement associated with that. But it wasn’t just blacks! Why do people keep forgetting that?? It was minorities versus whites. Hispanics, Asians, and Blacks were all persecuted and abused! Why do people keep forgetting that? Race remains a touchy issue in our society today and it’s infuriating. But the thing is, the civil rights movement wasn’t actually all that long ago. Change doesn’t happen over night, even though we all wish it could. And change will also never happen if we don’t even remember the mistakes we made in the first place.
…Sorry, I guess I went on a bit of a tangent…
Anyway, um, okay a few things that bothered me a tad were that I had difficulty in pinning down the story’s time and place, as well as Kettle’s race. I mean, fine, it tells you in the book description, but if you don’t read that then you’ll be left guessing a bit until almost halfway through the book at which point a simple phone call reveals all.
I’m just still confused about why it had to take so long to figure any of this out. Was it just to have some sort of element of mystery? Not worth it in my opinion. It wasn’t even revealed in a dramatic way, if mystery was the goal. Nora’s dad was on the phone and then suddenly we have a where, when, and who. The information reveal was fine but it really should have been done much sooner in the book (although yes if you just read the description then it doesn’t really matter…). Regardless, I still fell head first into Nora and Kettle’s worlds.
Lauren Nicolle Taylor asks such simple questions “What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?” and yet from that stems a difficult and emotional account. A beautiful plot, complex destined characters, and a heart-breaking story of hope, love, and survival sprinkled with the fairy dust of Peter Pan. Nora & Kettle stole my heart and left me gasping and thus I declare it a recommended read for any and all.
Purchase here: Nora & Kettle
Meet Lauren Nicolle Taylor!
Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.
She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.