[Review] Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

15:28 Cilla P 6 Comments

Nora & Kettle has been on my radar since its blog tour last year. In fact, I participated in (my one and only) book blitz for it because I was that excited for it. True to form though, it's taken me a year to actually get around to reading it. 😅 In that time, my excitement for it were raised further by the glowing reviews. Thankfully, with its gorgeous writing style and two characters that I rooted for, Nora & Kettle absolutely lived up to my expectations.

The first thing that drew me to the book is its setting. Taking place in 1953, Nora & Kettle explores the aftermath of the Japanese interment in the United States, where every person with even a drop of Japanese blood was locked away and treated as suspicious. The camps have been disbanded by the time we meet Kettle, our biracial protagonist, but the racism lingers. It's embarrassing to acknowledge, but prior to this book, I didn't know about this period in US' history. (Someone told me that they hadn't realised this was historical fiction until some way into the book, and I could see why, which is actually quite sad.)

Taylor's writing style won me over quickly. It's a very visual kind of writing, in that you're never told what's going on, you always see it. I didn't need to see a racial slur printed on the page to know Kettle was just hit with one. I didn't need paragraphs telling me about the interment; the details were scattered throughout the book. I didn't need to be told that Nora's sister, Frankie, has a disability; I could tell pretty much as soon as she showed up. By the time there are some expositions, they're pretty much confirmations of the pictures I have in my head. I loved it, and it didn't hurt that her descriptions were beautiful.

The other thing that I loved about this book is the contrasting yet similar nature of the graphic yet hidden violence Nora endures and the sometimes subtle but systemic one Kettle faces. In both situations, people turn a blind eye. I'm glad that the book allows us time to be immersed in their individual stories before they become entwined. It can feel a bit slow, but I felt both stories were important, and there was enough time and space for me to really understand both characters. By the time they find each other, the romance is an added bonus. It's exactly what I was talking about when I discussed what I look for in a bookish romance.

Some other important details: This is an #ownvoices book. It comes with content warnings, on the back of the book as well as inside. I thought it was really well done, and given the graphic violence in the book, necessary. Also, make sure to read the author notes at the end.

All in all, Nora & Kettle is a beautiful though heartbreaking book that could easily have stood on its own, independent of the Peter Pan retelling elements. (I haven't talked about the retelling aspect at all because, while I liked it, it didn't matter as much for me.) If you love complex characters, lyrical writing, and sweet, slow-burn romance, I highly recommend this book.

Reading this book contributes to the following challenges:

❥ Goodreads Challenge
❥ The Backlist Books Reader Challenge
Title: Nora & Kettle (Paper Stars #1) ❙ Author: Lauren Nicolle Taylor ❙ Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing ❙ Source: Borrowed ❙ Release Date: 15 March 2016

"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."


  1. I'm so excited for this book! I have a copy that I've been meaning to get to forever, but I'm sure I'll read it in the next couple of months or so.

    1. Let me know when you've read it! I'll be keen to know what you think! :D

  2. This just jumped up my TBR, it sounds absolutely incredible (and great to know that it's ownvoices!) I did know about the Japanese-American internment before, from reading about it in Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata (explores the effect of it on a 12-year-old Japanese-American girl and her family) which is also really worth reading, and knowing about the effects is devastating and heartbreaking. Great review Cilla!

    1. I'm so glad to hear that, Wendy! I really hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did. Oooh I'll look into Weedflower then :D Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I was listening to this audio book but had to put it aside because I'm in a reading slump right now. NOW I CAN'T WAIT TO BACK TO IT!!! Great review Cilla! :)

    1. I hope it helps you with your reading slump!! :D


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