In 1953, Nora resides comfortably in a brownstone cobbled street, the rest of the world ignorant to the abuse she faces inside the immaculate walls of her home. Mere miles away lives Kettle, a displaced Japanese American surviving day by day in the underground tunnel he calls home with a score of other orphaned children. Their worlds could hardly be more different- one outwardly perfect yet crumbling in sorrow, the other faced with the effects of post-war poverty but filled with mirth. Two tragedies bring them together in an unexpected way, and from then on their worlds will never be the same. Following suit with the white hot trend of Peter Pan retellings, does Nora & Kettle bring anything new to the table?
To be 100%, unabashedly honest I would have to say right from the get-go of this review that I did not like Nora & Kettle. As in, at all. To be blunt there was so many elements of the story that were amateurish in nature that I frequently found myself wondering how it was even published in the first place. For starters, the redundant writing that not so metaphorically clunks around from sentence to sentence. Lauren Nicolle Taylor is a clear supporter of commas galore, as she uses them routinely to drag out her descriptions of things with unnecessary detail. Not that her word choice is bad per se, but the structure is certainly stilted and makes it hard for readers to hang onto important info without their mind wandering. This perhaps could have been remedied had Taylor chose to plot her storyline at a quicker pace, creating more interest and extra excitement. Alas, she did not and as a result nearly two hundred pages are spent on seemingly pointless information while readers wait to actually see Nora and Kettle themselves on the same page interacting. Yes, you heard that right, the two romantic leads spend a mere one hundred pages together. Obviously I’m no novel writer, but it’s pretty much a given that if a book is marketed as a romance there had better be some actual page time spent between the two characters. Though there’s hardly any instance where this wouldn’t be a huge hurdle to overcome, it’s only exemplified by showing just how little we actually know about the protagonists besides a few token characteristics. For example, Nora’s entire existence is “It’s a hard-knock life” played on repeat, we learn she’d apparently do anything for her sister (not that we ever see that devotion beyond the most generic of terms), and she’s basically waiting for someone to come save her. Alternately, Kettle is a rough and tough turned gentle father figure who really would do anything for the kids he fosters. While those are great and admirable traits, I needed to know more about him on a personal level to feel genuine emotion for his storyline. Thus, the lack of development on either part resulted in a sparkless, dry, relationship that was impossible to root for even as the antagonist of Nora & Kettle, Nora’s father, was practically a ticking time bomb waiting to implode their newfound happiness. Taylor had one very interesting point in the beginning of the book that I was hoping she would run with in that Christopher Deere (the aforementioned villain) is an abusive father, but a compassion filled lawyer defending the less fortunate tirelessly. The questions, and self reflection on Nora’s part it would have created might have been enough to save her character from being a complete wet blanket, not to mention developing an antagonist who was more than just a caricature. Alas, the author ended up dropping it as soon as Kettle came into the picture, failing to utilize the strength of a very real question people must come to terms with.
Taking an entirely different track than my many woes with the characters and writing, let me take a minute to air my grievances about the misleading marketing that Clean Teens Publishing provided. So if you get on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. you’ll find a synopsis that states “What if Peter Pan was an orphan just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?”…which would lead one to assume they’re reading a retelling of the classic tale set in 1953, right? Wrong! This book has absolutely nothing to do with Neverland, and is only modeled so in order to ride on the coattails of attention this popular trend consistently brews. If you squint perhaps one could argue that Kettle’s tribe of ‘Lost Boys’ is a carryover from Pan’s story, while in reality it’s a thinly veiled attempt to justify laureling Nora & Kettle as a reimagining that ultimately ends up creating a gaping plot hole that makes absolutely no sense in relation to the rest of the book. Not only that but I think Taylor was trying to label this as historical fantasy, and when she completely struck out on the latter the former fell to the wayside. All she did was stick in a couple key phrases like “1953”, “Japanese-American”, “Internment Camp”, and the publisher decided it was acceptable to say it focused on “An event in history not often refered too.”. Yeah, well neither did this book! You can’t just make a character Japanese-American in a specific era and think it entitles you to labelling it as a work of historical fiction. Absolutely no research went into this at all, and it could quite literally take place on Mars for all I actually know of the setting. End rant.
Whew, that was a lot of negative feelings right there. Though I (obviously) strongly disliked this book, it’s receiving crazy high ratings on Goodreads so if it does sound at all interesting to you check it out and let me know what you think! Nora & Kettle hits shelves February 29 for those interested.