Title: Nora & Kettle (Paper Stars #1)
Author : Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Genre : Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publication Date : February 29th, 2016
Publisher : Clean Teen Publishing
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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.
If I were to describe any book I’ve read so far this year as “unforgettable,” I’d say Nora & Kettle absolutely fits the bill and some more. This book is perfect and tear-jerking and devastating, but hopeful and liberating.
Nora & Kettle is set in 1953, a time when memories of the war, of the destruction at Pearl Harbour, and the hatred towards the Axis powers was fresh in people’s minds. It was in this time that the incarceration of Japanese-American citizens took place, and in what was perhaps one of the most inhuman of post-war crisis, children with even a small amount of Japanese lineage were removed from orphanages, many ending up with no place to go to. As mentioned in the synopsis of the book, this era is not talked about too often, and even less in YA, and so Nora & Kettle is as informative as it is moving.
Our story begins with Nora, the daughter of a well respected civil right lawyer, who is abusive and controlling. Nora mentions seeing his out of control rage and abuse from a very young age, and though I don’t remember her pin-pointing exactly when he started beating her, I’m inclined to believe that she had been a victim for quite some time before the book began. She has a younger sister, Frankie, whom she must protect, though, and so she endures the violence and hatred her father bears towards her.
Nora’s life was hell. She was in a situation so ghastly, so terrible that no person must ever go through even a shadow if it, but she lived through it day in and day out, all for the sake of her sister. And that is what won me over. Nora was strong and courageous is the face of adversity, and her infinite love for her sister grounded her and kept her from drowning. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to be scared of your own father, to live in fear for your life in your own house, but wanting to protect your sister from anything and everything evil is something I can understand, and so Nora had my full sympathy from the very beginning.
Kettle, on the other hand, had circumstances completely different from Nora’s—but not any easier. Fighting for a dangerous, possibly fatal job everyday, feeding his “lost boys,” living like a thief in his own country at a time when his skin colour invited only hate and resentment, and these were only the struggles we see him go through in the course of the book. His past does flash back to abuse at the hands of the orphanage he stayed at for a while, and it was gut wrenchingly painful to relive his past with him. But not once did I see resentment or bitterness in his heart for all the people he had to take care of—and Kettle managed to warm my soul with this attitude.
As a unit, we don’t see Nora and Kettle together for very long. It takes a long time for them to meet, even longer to break the preconceived notions they had built about each other through the course of the book. And yet, when they were together, they looked like perfection. They were the balms to each others souls and it showed. And I only have the writing to thank for this. In a way I’ve never quite seen before, Lauren Nicolle Taylor managed to show the light at the end of the tunnel. I loved her skill with words, her flowing narrative, her characters that evoke love and support from a reader. Nora & Kettle was both raw and gutting, but it was also gorgeous and gripping from the beginning to the end. The story will weave into your heart and make you want to stop and feel and think, and from mere words on paper, I think that is the greatest thing we can ask for.
TOP 10 SONGS TO GO WITH NORA & KETTLE
- Dream a Little Dream of Me by Doris Day
- Pretend by Nat King Cole
- Ooh Child by Nina Simone
- Manhattan by Ella Fitzgerald
- Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland
- Come Fly With Me by Frank Sinatra
- Cry Me a River by Ella Fitzgerald
- New York New York by Frank Sinatra
- Hound Dog by Elvis Presley
- My One and Only Heart by Perry Como
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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.
She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.