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Book review: 'The Nest' turns dreams and nightmares into reality

Posted May 2

"THE NEST," by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Jon Klassen, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 256 pages (f) (ages 10 and up)

"The Nest" is the latest novel from New York Times best-selling author Kenneth Oppel. In this psychological thriller, a boy named Steven is in the midst of a family crisis. His parents have just had a baby born with a congenital defect. The seriousness of the baby's condition is worrying his parents, and a palpable stress is felt throughout the home.

Steven is an anxious child as it is and has a history of visiting a psychologist and keeping a list of people by his bed to think about before he goes to sleep, hoping that nothing bad will happen to them. With the arrival of the new baby, as well as his desire to keep his younger sister from feeling any sense of reality, his burden is heavier and he would do anything to fix this problem.

One day, he gets stung by a wasp in his backyard and discovers he is allergic. That night, the dreams start. In these dreams, he is visited by a figure with gossamer wings, which he calls an angel. The angel promises that if Steven cooperates with its plan, the baby will be able to lead a normal life.

What follows is a mind-stretching story put together piece by piece and clue by clue that pulls the reader along through the honeycomb maze of information, leading to a shocking ending.

Oppel has filled his story with many branches for readers to relate to: the feeling of anxiety in new situations, disability in the family, a new addition to the family, imaginary friends, dreams and nightmares, strangers in the neighborhood, sibling relationships, the acknowledgment of flaws leading to the desire for perfection, and an intellectual and imaginative glimpse into the life of an insect.

This middle grade horror story is exceptional as Steven and the reader are lured into a plan only to find that a nightmare beyond the imagination awaits them. Oppel is spinning his web, plucking the strings of human emotion and trapping the reader in a frightening but satisfying story.

The haunting illustrations by Jon Klassen complete the story. Black-and-white sketches lend an extra-eerie feel to the book, but the chapter headings with the number of wasps indicating the chapter number is a fun and clever addition.

"The Nest" contains no foul language or sexual content. It includes some scenes of violence, such as swarms of wasps attacking and a giant wasp decapitation. The horror is intense and may not be suitable for all readers.

Tara Creel is a Logan-native-turned-California-girl and mother of four boys. Her email is taracreel@gmail.com, and she blogs at taracreelbooks.wordpress.com.

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