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The first thing Nora tells us about herself is that she's "a smoky-eyed brunette with volumes of curly hair" (1.22). Let's do a little experiment. Make a list in your head of all the female characters from books, movies, or TV shows that you can think of who have curly hair. Here's a few we came up with to get the ball rolling: Merida from Brave, Hermione from Harry Potter, River Song from Doctor Who, and Elaine in Seinfeld.
Second part of the experiment. Do the curly-haired ladies on your list have anything in common?
On our list, we notice they're all spunky and smart, and they can hold their own, even against the dudes. Hey, guess what? Nora has all those qualities as well. Now, we're not saying that every person with curly hair has these characteristics, nor do you have to have curly hair to be this kind of person, but for fictional characters at least, curly hair is often a tipoff that we have a strong-willed, intelligent, and feisty type on our hands.
In addition to the curly hair, these are a few other vitals we get about Nora right away: She's an overachiever; she plays the cello and writes for the school eZine; she likes baroque music; she's not interested in going out with guys just for the heck of it; she's an only child; her mom is away on business a lot; and her father was murdered a year ago.
Despite the whole murdered-father part, Nora's pretty much totally and completely un-extraordinary. There has been some tragedy in her life, but the book blows past it without much explanation. Looks like we're being setup for a classic everygirl-leading-a-normal-life-is-suddenly-thrust-into-the-middle-of-romance-and-danger scenario.
Thinking Nora seems more nerd than normal (you know, since she likes baroque music)? Allow us to convince you otherwise.
See, when Nora's not poaching her best friend Vee's Neon, she drives a rusty 1970s Fiat Spider. She typically wears jeans and flats and very little makeup, if any. She's not the popular cheerleading type like Marcie Millar, but she's not a social outsider, either. She has a mom who phones to check in on her while she is away on business, and a housekeeper who makes homey meals like lasagna and casserole. Pretty much her biggest annoyance is that she has to go to the library to use the Internet because she and her mom have slow dial-up at home.
See what we mean? There really aren't any extremes going on in Nora's life. All signs point to a typical, middle-class upbringing, especially since the book doesn't pay much attention to her dad's death.
Speaking of Nora's dad, Nora makes it a point to avoid talking about his murder. She even tells Miss Greene as much in their first meeting:
"I had this exact conversation with Dr. Hendrickson a year ago when my dad died. Rehashing it with you isn't helping. It's like going back in time and reliving it all over again. Yes, it was tragic and horrible, and I'm still dealing with every day, but what I really need is to move on." (11.40)
That's one way to shut down a conversation, anyway. Thing is, Nora's normal-girl vibe starts to get more complex as dark and previously unknown details about her life come into the story. As other facts come to light, we start to wonder if Nora's father's death was really the random accident Nora thinks it was.
For instance, Nora learns that the birthmark on her wrist isn't just some fluke skin abnormality, but a sign that Nora is descended from Nephilim, specifically from Chauncey. Moreover, she is related to him through her father's side. And because of Nora's connection to Chauncey, Patch, at one time, wants to kill her so that he can become human. The plot thickens. While we only get a glimpse into the mysteries of Nora's past (in this book, anyway—don't forget it's part of a series), one thing is for sure: Nora feels like she's been duped:
My whole world felt like a joke, and I was the last one to get the punch line. I wasn't Nora Grey, average girl. I was the descendant of someone who wasn't even human. (26.62)
Much of YA literature is about coming of age, discovering who you are, and settling into your own skin. The revelations about Nora's bloodline add extra complexity to her navigation of teenageland because now Nora also has to contend with the new reality of having evil blood in her veins in addition to normal teenage pressures like dating, school, and experimenting with independence. She doesn't grapple with the implications of being descended from Nephilim too much in this book, but we're thinking it probably comes up in future installments in the series.
Nora is smart and independent, holding things together on her own while her mom is away for work. At the same time, though, Nora also has a girl-in-need-of-rescue thing going on. One sign of this quality in her anemia (hop over to the "Symbols" section to read our analysis of Nora's iron deficiency). To be fair, what we see in Nora is a mixed-bag: She vacillates between saving the day and needing saving throughout the book.
Feeding into the whole needing-help thing is the sheer number of times Nora runs into dangerous situations. Nora survives all these situations, and she's even able to fight off some attacks, at least temporarily or partially—she fends off Dabria long enough to find a hiding spot and wait for help, and she stabs Jules in the leg and knees him in the groin, which buys her enough time to get Vee to safety—but often, she finds herself saved by Patch.
In the direst circumstance, when Jules captures Nora in the school gym and holds a gun to her head, Patch can't get to her without Jules shooting. In a fallen angel super-power move, Patch takes over Nora's body for a few moments to help her fight him off. Alas, he cannot stay in her body long enough to incapacitate or kill Jules, so Nora is left on her own. She sprints for a ladder, hoping to crawl across the ceiling rafters and into an air vent, but Jules chases her up the ladder.
Out of options, Nora plunges herself off the rafter, preferring to fall to her death than be shot. Plus, killing herself will also kill Jules as well as give Patch a human body. Way to take charge, right? Maybe Nora's not so much a damsel in distress as she is Patch's knight in shining armor, saving him from a life he doesn't want.
But wait… Patch does save Nora. He rejects her sacrifice, which returns her soul to her body and turns Patch into her guardian angel. One of the things Patch likes about Nora from the get-go is her vulnerability, and time and again, we see Nora in dangerous situations. Ultimately, she gets a permanent protector when Patch overrides her intentions, saving her life and positioning himself as her guardian angel.
So what do you think? Does Patch save Nora, or does Nora save Patch? Is his decision to prevent her death a direct reflection on how Nora has changed Patch? If so, does that actually give Nora the power in her rescue from death? So many questions—over to you, Shmooper.
Whether Nora saves Patch or Patch saves Nora, it's safe to say these two are stuck together—and that means they deserve to join the ranks of Brangelina with their own terrible couple nickname. We suggest Natch or Pora.
As is often the case with intense teenage relationships (think: Romeo and Juliet), questions swirl about whether true love is at work or there is just a strong infatuation, perhaps even an unhealthily obsessive infatuation. Here's the DL on the Pora relationship to help us determine whether we might one day be doing the Funky Chicken at their fiftieth wedding anniversary party or this is actually just a dangerous infatuation.
Nora's Spidey sense is on full alert around Patch. She feels he is dangerous as soon as she meets him, and he later admits that he had plans to kill her. He stalks her, he alters her thoughts and puts words in her mind, he continues to pursue her after she tells him to leave her alone, and he is clearly way more sexually experienced then she is. Patch has been totally gaga over girls before, and there's the hint that he was a bad boyfriend, leaving one girl when another sparked his interest.
Distressingly, at the end of the book Patch has the authority to decide if Nora lives or dies. She lives because he gives up his own desire for a human body, but nevertheless, this could be interpreted as an extremely uneven power dynamic.
It isn't all bad news, though. For instance, Patch pushes Nora out of her comfort zone. Around him, she gets to feel that rush of adventure and the "Patch-induced flutter in [her] stomach" (15.65). Yay.
They are also both willing to make significant sacrifices for the other. When faced with death, Nora finds the courage to jump from the rafters because of her feelings for Patch—she's willing to give her life for the guy. On the flipside, Patch gives up becoming human to save Nora. So while he's creepy and obsessed with her, there are ways in which he's generous, too.
We could make the argument that Nora and Patch change each other for the better, but we could also argue that Patch is always in control and there's an unhealthy power dynamic between them. Since they're stuck together, we're thinking future installments in the series may shed a little light on the true dynamic of their relationship—and as that happens, we bet we'll see Nora more clearly, too.