Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Nest - Kenneth Oppel

Please welcome back guest reviewer, Courtney Cope!

Summary:  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 Klaassen. (Summary and image from goodreads.com)

Review: I have not been able to get this book out of my head.

It's a deep-rooted, psychological horror written for kids, and I can say with satisfaction that it terrified me. 

I have long been a fan of Kenneth Oppel's work, and was introduced to his novels years ago when I was able to meet him.  'The Nest' is quite different from his other fare, but in a good way, taking a dark, spooky path into the life of a boy with some quirky, but real phobias, and his quest to try and fix his family's heart-wrenching problem through a seemingly angelic appeal.

The story rolls out in a methodical manner, but it is in no way slow, as danger lurks on every page, and grows alarmingly the further you read.  The antagonist is truly creepy, and worthy of her nightmarish visits.  As a fan of dark tales, this one is up there with the best, burrowing itself into your psyche and giving you even deeper questions to ponder as you take this strange and macabre journey.

Childhood, while a seemingly innocent time, can also be a scary place, fraught with bogeymen and monsters under the bed, intensely real to young minds.  'The Nest' illustrates that lingering fear of what lies out there, and whether or not it is a real threat or one of the mind.  Many children suffer from these fears and anxieties, and you don't often see them portrayed in such a believable and tangible manner.

Jon Klassen (whom I've also had the pleasure to meet) sporadically illustrates the story, and his art adds to the eerie and ominous feeling.  His loose images, and the wasps that tend to multiply with every chapter heading, bring a visual edge to an already terrifying tale.
I think what I loved so much about this book was the absolute unknown, the unique and original way Oppel wove the tale, such a strange, bizarre and twisted idea that worked so very well.  I've never really read anything quite like it.  

'The Nest' is a quick read and, trust me, you will want to block out appropriate amount of time to read it in one sitting.

Rating: Four stars

For the sensitive reader: It might be a little intense and spooky for the younger reader. Think of it on the level of 'Coraline' to the power of wasps.

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