Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Ah. To be perfect. To not suffer. To not have anxiety. What if you were promised that all your troubles would go away and you could have the perfect life if you agreed to one thing. Would you be tempted? Steve is. See his baby brother is horribly sick. He might die. He might not talk. He might not walk. He needs an operation on his heart and no one is sure how his baby brother will grow. And that's not all of Steve's problems. He sees a therapist for his own problems. When an angel appears in Steve's dreams promising to take his troubles away, it is easy to see why Steve agrees to the angel's request. Only this dream quickly becomes a nightmare, his angel a wasp, and Steve realizes that perfection doesn't exist. Worse, he has agreed to something he cannot take back even though the cost is someone's life.

What a creepy horror story. The slow buildup of tension and odd characters make this book hard to put down and the science behind wasps make them the perfect villains in the story. Toss in a suspicious man that sharpens knives for a living, a live voice on a toy phone, and you have a great setup to spread shivers among readers of all ages. I would love to try this as a read aloud.

The character arc shows Steve wanting all his troubles go away. A sympathetic motherly figure appears in a dream and smooth-talks her way into getting Steve to go along with her plan that seems innocent at first but becomes more sinister and evil as time goes on. The wasp that can sting its victim over and over is a great metaphor for the suffering that Steve and his family have endured with the birth of a baby brother that is "broken" inside. Steve just wants a normal life and it isn't until the end that he realizes that there is no such thing as normal. I didn't realize that Kenneth Oppel is Canadian. I had this book on my Newbery list and it doesn't qualify. It's really well-done. A good one for your collection.

5 Smileys

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