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The Nest Paperback – October 4, 2016
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—Steve has always been a worrier, but since his brother was born he's become even more anxious. When Steve starts having dreams about otherworldly wasps, he takes comfort in their message that everything will be okay. But the more he learns about their plan to "fix" the baby's congenital condition, the more he's conflicted. The tension and unease grow as Steve begins to wonder if the wasps are real or imagined. The story comes to a climactic end that is cathartic and comforting. Set in a modern-day suburb, this quiet yet emotionally haunting book thoughtfully explores themes of safety, anxiety, and the beauty of the imperfect. Klassen's black-and-white graphite illustrations complement the sensitive and powerful narrative, written in first person from Steve's perspective. The images have a retro, printmaker feel and never reveal the entire picture, leaving much to the imagination—what is hidden in the unknown? Is it something bad or good? How can you know? The characters are believable and strongly developed, especially Steve, who deals with anxiety and possibly obsessive compulsive disorder. Scientific information on the life cycle, anatomy, and behaviors of wasps is woven in a way that furthers the plot. VERDICT This affecting middle grade psychological thriller is recommended as a first purchase for libraries.—Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*"With subtle, spine-chilling horror at its heart, this tale of triumph over monsters—both outside and in—is outstanding....Printz-winning, New York Times best-selling Oppel and Caldecott-winning Klassen are a match made in kid-lit heaven. Expect ample buzz."
(Booklist - Starred Review July 2015)
*"Compelling and accessible." (Kirkus Reviews - Starred Review August 2015)
* "Oppel uses a dark and disturbing lens to produce an unnerving psychological thriller." (Publisher's Weekly - Starred Review July 2015)
* "Emotionally haunting...This affecting middle grade psychological thriller is recommended as a first purchase" (School Library Journal - Starred Review August 2015)
* "a tight and focused story about the dangers of wishing things back to normal at any cost....the emotional resonance is deep, and Steve’s precarious interactions with the honey-voiced queen make one’s skin crawl." (The Horn Book - Starred Review September/October 2015)
Top customer reviews
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This is my first Kenneth Oppel, and I'm not quite sure if he's written anything else. I purchased it because I really enjoyed the synopsis, but when it arrived I was a little wary of the number of pages and font size. It looked a lot simpler than it turned out to be. I mean, wow, what a creepy book! I had no idea this was categorized as middle-grade horror. It really was an excellent read that pulls you in.
Stephen's family is having some trouble, his baby brother was born with problems and the doctors don't think there's much they can do for his weak heart. His parents spend all their time with his brother or at the hospital, and he finds himself alone a large portion of the time, either with his younger sister, who is caught up in her own world or with the babysitter. There's also a knife sharpening man who drives by every so often that plays a role in the book, and of course, the strange dreams.
After getting stung by a wasp, Stephen begins to have dreams of some sort of angel speaking to him every night. She talks to him about the baby and offers to help him get better...in fact, she promises Stephen that with her help, the baby can become "perfect". At first, Stephen does not take the dreams seriously, they're just dreams, right? So he doesn't ask too many questions, and does not take the questions asked to him by this "angel" too seriously either. However, he soon realizes that this angel is actually a wasp, and she is able to communicate with him this way because he was stung by one (by her, to be precise). She is the Queen of the nest, and she assures him that with her help she can fix all his problems. Stephen becomes worried as things the Queen tells him begin to happen, realizing that these aren't just dreams anymore. Soon enough, Stephen realizes that the Queen's solution to making the baby better is to replace him with a completely different one. A "perfect" version of him. Stephen struggles with the temptation as he sees his parents suffering day in and day out. He doesn't know what to do, and can't seem to decide what the right thing to do is.
Eventually, he makes a decision. But was it the right decision to make?
I read this book in one sitting, and found myself at the edge of my seat as I neared the end. All the characters mentioned above play different parts in how this book ends and the decision that Stephen ends up making.
Gripping, terrifying story. I found myself hugging my 5 month old son extra tight that night, grateful for his health and existence.
‘The Nest’ deals with our protagonist Steven communicating with other worldly beings (wasps) that give him a status quo on life and the survival of his ill newborn brother. The whole family are trying to deal with the difficulties the infant faces, as well as their own demons. It may be Steve’s overactive imagination that brings the dreams, or mental illness manifest in the form of delusion. But we are treated to almost psychic predictions. These are then pitted against Councillors and Psychiatrists, and other adult figures with justifications. But in the mind of Steve, we never know what to believe. This theme is front and centre throughout the entire novel, as well as Steve’s fear: that if he comes completely clean about what is going on in his head, he’ll be committed to a Sanatorium.
The set up and narrative balances on the edge of fantasy and reality is done expertly and had me salivating with joy.
We see his character develop as he discerns fantasy from reality, and finding strength within to battle his personal and very real physical threats that circle him and newborn brother Theo. It’s a subtle journey.
I will say the last third of the novel really amps up the tension and pace. I could not take my eyes from the page, curling up my legs and twitching nervously. It was quite a surprise for a middle grade novel, such visceral images and such a menacing ambience. It carries that same creepy air you get from Roald Dahl novels.
Some charcoal, or possible pencil, illustrations are scattered throughout the novel in scribbly texture, one shade of grey that add to the unsettling tone.
I was attracted by the cover art at first, and under the dust jacket holds another version of the cover, just as beautiful. The presentation of this novel is stunning. Deckled edges, thick solid hardback. Such a gorgeous addition to my library.
And the story is haunting, the kind of thing that stays with you for a while after. I would tend to say only the more mature end of middle grade would be able to digest this tome. The story is light, but the meaning dense. I could imagine kids feeling itchy and glancing about like a skittish horse at small movements looking for flying insects.
A short novel, I read in half a day, the prose is a little rich, so it is either educational for its target audience, leaning towards a discussion afterward, or meant for those hard core younger readers. Possibly something you could read aloud in a classroom as well.
Maybe if I was a lot younger I would give this a much higher rating, but for me, it lacked a little complexity – because that’s the type of book I’m used to reading. But I’d definitely recommend this solely for the experience.
Best book I've read all year, its haunting and fast paced and I got choked up at the end from a two word sentence which I was not expecting.
I bought it originally because of the Jon Klassen artwork (being a fan of his) and am so glad I did, the story was amazing and his art added to the creepy vibe. Very unsettling.