Friday, September 8, 2017

The Nest, by Kenneth Oppel (illustrated by Jon Klassen)

Patrick Ness' creepy Tween novel The Nest combines a child's anxiety over a mysteriously ill newborn sibling of Under Shifting Glass (Singer) with the uncomfortable skin-crawling vibe of A Monster Calls (Ness). It's subtle, it's terrifying, and it's definitely not something to read while you're alone at night. 

It's also awesome!

Steve's newborn brother is sick, and no one can figure out what is wrong. Or...that's the story as far as Steve knows. His parents aren't saying much. They're also gone a lot, what with all Theo's doctor appointments. So Steve is left to worry while he takes care of his little sister. That's a lot for an already-anxious 10 year old boy recovering from OCD to deal with. On top of that, strange white wasps are building a nest just outside the baby's window (Steve is allergic to wasps). And then there's the Knife Man. And the shadowy Mr. Nobody who haunts his nightmares.

It's shaping up to be a bad summer all around. And even falling back on his rituall behaviors (the OCD) doesn't help.

Then the Wasp Queen begins visiting his dreams, promising she and her workers will help Theo. At first, Steve thinks she's an angel. But with each consecutive dream he learns the Queen's real agenda...and it's more horrible than anything he could have imagined. And, since no one else sees the wasps for what they really are, Steve knows it's up to him and him alone to save the day. No spoilers here. You'll have to read the book for yourself. Just be prepared for the book to stay with you for a long time. 

The Nest is Magical Realism at its best! The fantasy elements build slowly, until the reader can't tell what's real and what's simply taking place in the narrator's imagination. Additionally, Oppel did a fantastic job writing Steve's character. The voicing, the word choices...Steve's age comes across as authentic. The Nest is an all-around awesome book. Just be prepared to be creeped out a little. Or a lot.


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