Published by Clean Teen Publishing on 2/29/16
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Source: Blog Tour
My content rating: YA (Violence, Abuse)
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 AND 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.
This is not my normal type of read, but I have to tell you that I’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to read it. I have to confess that it was the Peter Pan reference that first got my attention. The book has some very loose ties to the Peter Pan story, but I hadn’t reread the blurb before reading the book and hadn’t noticed any but the incredibly obvious ones – this is not a retelling (though now that I’m thinking back on it, the ties are certainly there, and I’m thinking of more and more of them – this is one of the first times I wish I’d read the blurb right before reading the book so I would have caught more of them). But that was fine with me because the book easily stood on its own – it didn’t need a fairy tale to fall back on.
What Fed My Addiction:
- A story that needs to be told. This story is told in parts at first, and Kettle’s portion of the story is one we don’t hear a lot about, especially in YA literature: how Japanese Americans were treated after World War II. In this part of the story, you get Kettle’s story of how he is struggling with being an outsider in society, trying his hardest to survive in a country that doesn’t want him because of his parentage. Kettle lived a good portion of his life in a Japanese internment camp – a part of the history of WWII that we often ignore (we prefer to focus on the inhumanity of Hitler instead of admitting to our own). Kettle is doing his best to scrape together enough of a living to keep himself and the band of Lost Boys he’s collected (they call themselves the Kings) together and alive. It’s not easy, and he has to face the judgments and the prejudices of his fellow US citizens while doing it. But is ever-hopeful and he won’t give up – and he won’t resort to stealing (though scrounging through garbage is definitely a necessity). Kettle’s life was fascinating, in a horrifying sort of way, and I’m so glad I read his story.
- Chillingly painful. Then there was Nora’s story. Hers was often almost more painful and emotional, simply because it was seen more directly. Where it took a little while to truly understand Kettle’s situation, Nora’s painful reality was clear from the very beginning. Her life with an abusive father was incredibly disturbing (and uncomfortable to read about sometimes – be prepared). I was appalled at the actions of this man who, on the outside, seemed to be fighting for social justice while perpetrating such atrocities in his own home. I couldn’t put this book down because I needed to find out what happened to Nora in the end.
- The selves we hide. This book highlighted how we have this darkness in us as humans. In Kettle’s story, he talked about how people who would think themselves good could become their basest selves because of prejudice and act inhumanely, even with evil. Then there was Nora’s dad, who cared about the injustices against Japanese Americans, but couldn’t control the demons inside him – he was a completely different person with his family than he was to the world. And, unfortunately, this is true for so many of us (hopefully to a much lesser degree, but still). I found the commentary on the state of the human soul fascinating.
- World’s collide. Just a warning – it wasn’t until about 65% into the book that Nora and Kettle’s stories truly came together – but it was worth the wait! From the very moment that these two found each other, I was mesmerized, and the story took on a whole new, thrilling dimension!
What Left Me Wanting More:
- Separate stories at first. Like I said, the two stories were told mostly separately with just thin ties between them up until about 65% of the book. While I appreciated both stories, I was more connected to Nora’s, and I sometimes felt like I wanted to hurry past Kettle’s part to find out what was going to happen to Nora (which I shouldn’t have – because while Kettle’s story was slower-building, it was just as important!).
This story was beautifully painful and haunting, and it should not be missed! While this book says it’s a Paper Stars Novel, it can definitely be read as a standalone – though I’m eager to see what Taylor has planned for future books in this series. I give Nora & Kettle 4.5/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the author via XPresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About Elise Kova
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.
She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.