Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

"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.""

Rating: 4 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I am a big fan of retellings, although I typically stick with Beauty and the Beast ones. When I saw this book on NetGalley and that it was a Peter Pan-like story, I thought that it sounds unique and worth the time. I'd never seen a Peter Pan one before, so there you go.

I am glad I did. I'll admit that I didn't really make the connection at first, but a couple of chapters in the similarities between the two stories started sinking in.

I don't remember the book Peter Pan all that well; it's been years since I read it. I remember the basics, though, and Nora & Kettle had so much more emotion than I remember in the original story.

This book definitely need a trigger warning for those sensitive to domestic abuse issues. I believe my galley did, but I'm not sure about the final copy. The chapters in the book alternate points of view between the title characters and while reading Nora's chapters, I really got a sense for the terror she went through. The abuse she suffered was horrific and she spent most of her time not only trying to survive the abuse herself, but protecting her little sister who's already suffered so much.

The setting for the book is new for me too. I do enjoy books set during the early to mid 20th century, but I've never really delved into the post-World War II era. I learned a lot about what the Japanese children went through and what the world was like for them. It was heartbreaking, especially when combined with Nora's situation.

The writing was very good. When I picked it up I realized I had forgotten what the summary was, so it actually took me a little time to get into the story and remember what the time period was. That's both a little confusing, given what Kettle's story is about, and good because that means the book is easy to slip into, regardless of the time period.

I definitely recommend picking this up, but be warned that there will be a lot of emotions going on while you read this book. There's heartbreak, a kind of stomach unsettled-ness for a lot of the book, but the reading, the journey, is worth the discomfort. It is one of the most human books I've read in a long while.

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