I had seen some blogging friends express interest in Nora & Kettle, but when the e-book was on sale and I contemplated buying it, I checked Goodreads and noticed none of them had actually read it. The reviews from others on GR really piqued my interest though, so I bought it and read it not too long after. And I’m glad I did.
The pacing of the story is very slow, but the writing is beautiful. It also weaves in some elements from Peter Pan, though it is definitely not a retelling or an adaptation.
In the beginning we meet Nora, a girl who, to the outside world, seems to have a good life, but she’s harboring the secret of her father’s abuse. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention the inciting incident, as it happens so quickly, but her mother dies in a freak accident, and suddenly Nora is even more terrified because this means she has to endure her father and shield her sister from him alone.
Meanwhile, Kettle is a poor homeless boy doing his best to take care of other poor homeless kids alongside his friend and “brother” Kin. He takes his life in stride but is haunted by the past he barely remembers – the family who might not have wanted him, his childhood in internment camps, his mysterious mixed heritage. And he deals with the overwhelming burden of trying to provide for himself and others at the young age of 17 and no place to call home.
For more than half of the novel, we go back and forth between these two’s individual lives, with them skimming each others’ paths, but not properly meeting for a while. It’s very drawn-out and not a lot happens, and yet I was invested in these characters. I cared for them and wanted to know what would happen to them and how they would finally meet up.
When Nora and Kettle are finally involved in each others’ lives, it’s interesting to see how they compare and contrast to one another. I will say, however, that this portion of the story was more rushed and didn’t feel fully developed. Nora and Kettle grow interested in each other quickly, which is fine, but it felt more vague than sure, and then suddenly towards the end it seems to get very serious very quickly. However, the climax was really compelling and I think it played out perfectly. I just wanted maybe one more chapter afterwards for more of a final resolution.
Overall, it’s a beautiful story, and I would love to read more about these characters. I know so little about the Japanese internment camps and while this didn’t teach me much more, it did humanize those events for me through Kettle and Kin.
Rating: 4 stars
Trigger warning: domestic violence/abuse
Content advisory: Domestic violence described but not too graphically, some language.
Have you read Nora & Kettle? What did you think?
My friend has been pushing this on me (or she did when it came out), and I am not surprised that you ended up loving it! It sounds really heartbreaking, with the domestic abuse, and homelessness, but at the same time, light hearted? I’m really only getting that from the cover hahaha. Because from your review, I highly doubt it.
This is the first I’ve heard of the loose retelling of Peter Pan! The next time this book is on sale, I’ll definitely be buying a copy! Thank you for the lovely review Amy!
It’s not light-heartened but it’s not super heavy either, if that makes sense. There is sad stuff going on but there is definitely hope in it, and Kettle almost always has a good attitude (and when he doesn’t you don’t blame him because he’s been through a lot!). I think you would like it, so I hope you have the chance to get it one day!