Another retelling for 12 Days of Diversity! I’ve really enjoyed almost everything I’ve read this past week, too. Nora and Kettle was no exception! A loose retelling of Peter Pan, it follows the title characters. Kettle (Peter) is a seventeen-year-old boy who was a victim of the Japanese American internment during World War II and who now lives on the streets, caring for a ragtag band of orphans (his Lost children). Nora (Wendy) is an eighteen-year-old girl, doomed to living with her highly abusive father and attempting to protect her younger sister Frankie from him. Eventually, their paths collide and decisions must be made by both of them to help them live their best lives.
The story in the book was slow to show its ties to Peter Pan, but I still enjoyed the getting there. Nora and Kettle were both interesting characters, who I at least could empathize with if not always understand. There were times where both were frustrating, but that helps make them more real to me. Likewise, the supporting characters were well-written, from Nora’s adorably annoying sister Frankie, to Kettle’s adopted brother Kin, to Nora’s abusive father (all the trigger warnings here). The characters made it easy to get immersed in the story and to really care about how it turned out.
One thing that didn’t quite work for me was that I didn’t really get the “feel” of the 1950s setting. It felt like a modern story kind of plopped in to the 1950s. A lot of the things that showed the book was set in a different time period were buried for a good portion of the first part of the book and you only slowly start to understand that it is, in fact, not a modern story. I still really liked it, but I would’ve liked some more historical touches.
Overall, I found this story to be a well-written, engaging story that shows the Peter Pan mythology in a whole new light. I do wish it would’ve been more historically specific/gone more in-depth about the internment of Japanese-Americans during the war, but the memories that Kin and Kettle have of that time do create a pretty bleak picture, and lead you to know more about why they’ve shunned society, as do further instances of racism they encounter (more trigger warnings). If you like Peter Pan, and you’re looking for an interesting take on it, this book is for you.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Have you read Nora & Kettle? Will you? Got any more fiction from this time period you love? Let me know below!