Publication: October 6, 2015, by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Horror, Fantasy
Steve just wants to save his baby brother—but what will he lose in the bargain? This is a haunting gothic tale for fans of Coraline, from acclaimed author Kenneth Oppel (Silverwing, The Boundless) with illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.
For some kids summer is a sun-soaked season of fun. But for Steve, it’s just another season of worries. Worries about his sick newborn baby brother who is fighting to survive, worries about his parents who are struggling to cope, even worries about the wasp’s nest looming ominously from the eaves. So when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve thinks his prayers have been answered.
All he has to do is say “Yes.” But “yes” is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back?
Celebrated author Kenneth Oppel creates an eerie masterpiece in this compelling story that explores disability and diversity, fears and dreams, and what ultimately makes a family. Includes illustrations from celebrated artist Jon Klassen.
I usually procrastinate while reading or writing reviews (Twitter is life) but if I don't, which is a pretty rare situation, I must love the book, and this is an obvious case. Anticipating this read since way before BEA this year because of who wrote it (KENNETH OPPEL, if you haven't noticed before), The Nest has definitely hit one of the top spots in my favourites list. Keep in mind that it's completely bizarre, creepy and odd, but it has that nice feel to it—something that Ransom Riggs would appreciate to use in his novels too. You'll never look at wasps in the same way.
I can't look at the bizarre creatures in the same way. Oppel has written using a variety of genres to satisfy middle-grade readers, and I never would've thought that this is pure middle-grade or horror at all. I actually didn't even pay close attention to what the premise was, thinking that it'd be better for me to be surprised. I recommend taking that initial step, too. You don't want to know what this book is about, to be honest. Babies, nests, anxiety, OCD, worrying and family issues, what else can you want a little fifth grader to read about?
Brace yourself for my favourite quote of the year. READY? Okay, let me show you, because this tells us how inspirational Oppel's writing is and how I long to praise him.
"Sometimes we really aren't supposed to be the way we are. It's not good for us. And people don't like it. You've got to change. You've got to try harder and do deep breathing and maybe one day take pills and learn tricks so you can pretend to be more like other people. Normal people." (ARC, page 117)
Our protagonist, Steve, isn't a bad guy, trust me. He just made bad decisions. If you wouldn't like to know what this book's about, then I'd recommend to stop reading now. So, back to the story. Steve has a new baby brother, who has a lot of health problems and his family and the doctors aren't sure if he's going to make it a while longer. When Steve starts having these dreams of angels telling him that they'll replace his baby brother with a healthy one without anyone else knowing, he isn't sure if he's going to take the risk when the real loved one is right next to him and has the chance of surviving.
The tears are falling and shedding, trust me. I bet if I read this in public, right after I met Kenneth and Jon at BEA in some line, I'd bawl and look like some weird bookworm who has issues. The feels are real and tucked away in the nest of the novel. This book is like a nest, you feel like you're at home when you're reading it. Kenneth's writing hits very close to home (and in location, too), leaving readers with a feel of summer vacation and family issues. You don't have to be a teenager or grownup to have anxiety and worry over little things, he tries to show us.
I guess that this book isn't for everyone. If you are sensitive to the creepy, gross kind of descriptions (especially younger children), then you should purchase a copy and wait until the right moment. I read this late at night and got so creeped out that I needed to finish reading or I'd be hit with thousands of nightmares of wasps eating human flesh. Yeah, it was that kind of thing. *gags* But don't expect gore or anything like that, it's just a deep concept that means so much more than the evident wasp-kid story. The artwork done by Jon Klassen is gorgeous too, I just can't stop fawning over the cover and interior images! I want to see those 'albino wasps' from far or at the zoo, but never in a nest by my home. *laughs*
It's a quick novel, if you couldn't tell from looking at the number of pages. I'm not sure how long it exactly took me, but I do know that it was something that you could start right before bed and finish when your eyes begin to sag. And that's another reason why I picked it up at the right moment. It's fast-paced, short with a larger font, and you'll find yourself flipping through the pages without even thinking about it. The story won't go on without you and your masterful imagination and insight needed to satisfy your bookish-feels.
"All I knew was that this dream made me feel better. Waking up from it, I'd just felt happier. It happened sometimes, a dream that cast a kind of hopeful light from the night into the daytime." (ARC, page 26)
Steve is a boy who has many issues. Social issues are evident, as well as emotional ones added from all of the stress introduced by his new sibling. He doesn't get any attention from his parents, who are often at the hospital worrying about their new baby, and he has to see a therapist when things get too rough. The worst thing is that he's a kid, and feels more left out as he watches others, playing outside and having fun. Steve is trapped in his own little nest, craving to be released and to be normal, just like the queen wasp asked him to, as she gave him the option. We often don't read about anxiety in general, especially in young children, and this is the perfect example. Steve's dreams and hopes left me thinking, even after finishing the story, but love has always been in his heart.
Impacting writing is one of the most fond qualities that I search for in a great novel, and this definitely had it. Sure, it had horror and fantasy elements, but there was so many contemporary, realistic things that I just can't leave behind when reading. When this is released, the world is going to go wild and we'll all be grabbing EpiPens so we can hide from the wasps that are going to replace people. Whoa, sorry for getting that picture in your head. The Nest is surely for everyone, it doesn't matter that it's middle-grade fiction at all, I loved it!
*A review copy was provided by the publisher via BookExpo America in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much!*