Synopsis (From GoodReads):
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.
Review:I didn't know what to expect when I first got Lauren Nicolle Taylor's Nora & Kettle from NetGalley. It sounded like just an updated Peter Pan story. It is, but there are many other layers to this tale, most of which I liked. There were also some disturbing aspects of the story that any potential reader should know about going in. This is a story about abuse. If you have triggers for this sort of thing, I would advise you to pass on this book.
What I Liked:
The Characters:I really liked how fleshed out all the characters were, not just Nora or Kettle. Kettle's friend, Kin, has a gripping back history and story line that mingle with Kettle's. The two met in the Japanese internment camps during WWII. Both were children who's mothers didn't survive. They decide they will not be shipped out to orphanages, and so begin living day to day on the streets. Their story of survival is harrowing as they try to fight their way in to jobs as day laborers at a port.
Nora is a complex study. It is difficult to portray victims of abuse because we often cannot see how the person can stay in the situation. I often was screaming at the book, "Leave, NOW"! But Nora stays in a horrible existence to shield her 7-year old sister from the violence of her father.
The Story:I loved how in the beginning of the story Kettle and Nora almost meet several times, but just miss each other. It shows how random life can be. Each is caught up in their own problems and can't see beyond the immediate drama of their lives. It is so gratifying when they finally meet and start to learn about each other (This kind of reminded me of a very dark version of Sleepless In Seattle)! The scenes of Nora's abuse are hard to read, but further the story and so are necessary.
What I didn't Like:
Setting:I think the book is set in 1950's New York City. But the book was very lean on any historical details that would help establish the time period. There is one reference to the "new" Perry Como song. But, other than that, I never got a sense that this was the 1950's, or that it was New York.
Historical inaccuracies:There is a scene in the book where Nora calls 9-1-1, and tries to ask for help. I thought this didn't sound right, so I checked and 9-1-1 wasn't set up in the U.S.A. until 1968, well after the events in this book. Yes, this may be petty of me, but I am a big reader of historical fiction and it takes me right out of the time and story if there are glaring mistakes such as this. Also, there is a key scene where a certain piece of technology is used. I will try to be vague in order to not give a spoiler, but they way it is used in the book is not at all accurate for the time period.
Although glaring, these are really minor issues in an otherwise wonderful book. It is flips from disturbing to wistful and then to romantic. It was a fulfilling book.
Release Date: February 29th, 2016
Format: ARC E-book
Recommendation: A satisfying book about difficult subjects: Abuse and Homelessness. As long as you don't have triggers for these topics, you should find this an absorbing book.