Illustrations by Jon Klassen
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: October 6, 2015
The baby was born sickly. Steve's parents worry and fret as they drive the baby back and forth from one doctor's appointment to the next, never sure if the news will be good or bad. Steve has always been a worrier though, so what's one more thing to worry about? That is until he is stung by a strange wasp and begins to have eerie dreams. The Queen says that she is going to replace the baby with a new one, one that isn't sickly. At first this seems like a good idea, but as he gets more and more details, Steve begins to realize that things are not right. That new baby isn't going to be his brother. He doesn't know what it will be, but it won't be Teddy. And then he learns what the wasps intend to do with his real brother.
Much like David Almond's Skellig, The Nest weaves a creepy tale that feels just a tad too close to home. The initial situation, one of a sickly baby and an anxious child who is just a little too young to be told everything that is going on is firmly believable and understandable. Which is why when the wasps are first introduced, like Steve, the reader wants to believe that it is just a dream. Who has ever heard of wasps making a baby in their nest? In the beginning, when this element was introduced, I truly hoped that it would all turn out to be real and not some kind of dream or hallucination and the book delivered. This is no dream. There is a Queen wasp who is creating a new baby in a nest attached to Steve's house. She is going to replace the sickly baby with it and all she needs is for Steve to say yes and open a window. That's all.
Steve is also a great character in that he clearly has some OCD issues, has difficulty making friends, and is very anxious. Although this could mean that Steve is on the autism spectrum, I like that Oppel didn't label it. Besides there are plenty of kids out there who have these issues and aren't labeled with any particular disability. It just speaks to a larger audience that way and doesn't turn it into a "disability" book. (Disclaimer: Nothing wrong with these types of books, but I do like the idea that disabilities can be in a book without the book being about disabilities)
There were a couple of times when I may have said, "Holy shit" out loud, but mostly because I don't do creepy very well (don't ask my why I am reading the second Diviners book). I did have one issue with the Knife Man and not feeling like his presence was explained fully enough, but it wasn't enough to ruin the book. Perfect for kids who love a bit of horror and are middle grade readers of David Almond, Mary Hahn Downing, and Neil Gaiman.