The Nest - Kenneth Oppel

Genre: Middle-grade/Psychological/Horror
Synopsis: 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?


Review: I'm not sure what drew my attention to this one - perhaps that I initially thought it was a book for adults based on the dark cover. I decided to read it because of the unusual premise, with books such as A Monster Calls in mind (a young child possibly imagining things as a coping mechanism for an illness in the family). I was not disappointed. Featuring dark illustrations, also not unlike those in A Monster Calls, this book differs in that is more focused on telling a scary story than a tale of coming to terms with emotion. And it tells that story very well.

I read the book in a day, in two sittings, because I was so eager to find out what would happen. It is eerie throughout, and definitely doesn't pander to the age group (something I hate seeing in childrens' books). There's no overt violence, nothing too graphic or inappropriate in terms of language for the age group, and yet the simple idea compelled me, an adult reader, to finish the story asap. Many things are left unanswered, such as the extent to which the events are real, but it doesn't really matter.

I'm sure there's a cautionary tale about trying to find the easy way out, or believing that things can be perfect, but I'm not the best at picking up on these. What I did pick up on was a story about a boy coming to terms with the reality of his little brother's illness and deciding what to do with that. And it's a very good, very original story.

Rating: 4/5

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