banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

BOOK REVIEW: The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Jon Klassen

| 3 October 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Jon Klassen

David Fickling Books
June 2016
Hardcover, $24.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Middle Grade/Horror



There was something wrong with the baby, but no one knew what. Not us, not the doctors.

Steve has OCD, is afraid of the dark, and has recently discovered he’s allergic to wasps.

On the drive to school, I used to silently name the same landmarks so I wouldn’t have a bad day. I had a relaxation tape I listened to in the car. At school I drank only from a certain water fountain, and washed my hands between every class. I also had hand sanitizer with me, just in case.

I still get scared at night. When I sleep, I pull the covers right up over my head and leave only a little hole that I can breathe through – but not see through. I don’t want to see what’s out there. I’ve slept like this for as long as I can remember. It’s embarrassing, and I’ll never tell anyone about it.

He’s also heading into his teen years, the eldest of his siblings, and with the arrival of a new, unwell baby, he feels more ignored than ever.

When the baby was first born, Dad came home to tell me about his condition. That there was something wrong with his heart and his eyes and his brain and he’d probably need surgery. There were a lot of things wrong with the baby.

With every rung I got angrier. My parents couldn’t even deal with the nest. I was allergic, but they were too busy. They were busy with the baby and would be for the rest of their lives, so I had to do it. I didn’t know if these wasps were really from my dreams, but I wanted them off my house. I wanted them out of my dreams. The nest was coming down.

His parents are spending all of their time looking after the baby, taking him to the hospital, trying to get him to eat and sleep, and when they’re not doing these things they’re exhausted and drained. When the “angels” come to him in a dream and offer help, he has no idea what he’s getting himself, and his family, into.

“That’s right. And all you have to do is say yes. Yes to the end of suffering and heartbreak. Yes to making your mother and father happy. Yes to making a better life for everyone.”
I thought, It’s just a dream anyway.
I thought, It has no power over me.
I thought, Why not?
“Fine,” I whispered.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear that.”
“Yes,” I muttered.
“More clearly please.”
“Yes, then! Yes! Yes!”

And as he helps the wasps work at replacing his baby brother and agonises over the decision to do so, he realises that his own problems render him less than perfect.

“People lie and say they don’t want perfect. But really they do. Perfect bodies and minds and comfy chairs and cars and vacations and boyfriends and girlfriends and pets and children. Above all, children. Why do we lie and say we don’t? Because we’re afraid people will think we’re mean or vain or cruel. But we all want it. Me, I’m just helping it come true. I’m at least telling the truth. No liars here, no sir.”

The baby was warm against my chest. I knew I was broken too. I wasn’t like other people. I was scared and weird and anxious and sad lots of the time, and I didn’t know why. My parents thought I was abnormal, I was pretty sure. They said I wasn’t, but you don’t get sent to a therapist if you’re normal.
Sometimes we really aren’t supposed to be the way we are.It’s not good for us.And people don’t like it. You’ve got to change. You’ve got to try harder and do deep breathing and maybe one day take pills and learn tricks so you can pretend to be more like other people. Normal people. But maybe Vanessa was right, and all those other people were broken too in their own ways.


The Nest is a downright unsettling read, getting right to the heart of the insecurities middle-grade readers face in that uncertain progression from child to young adult, compounded in this case by the illness of a younger sibling, and additional fears surrounding their own compulsions and flaws.

It’s rather creepy, and there are some lines within this story that speak so very well of these fears and insecurities, as well as others that put the creepy moments in such plain language that they’re even more chilling than if there had been all manner of addition description.

Nicole began calling him Mr. Nobody. Mr. Nobody got his jollies calling us and not saying anything. Mr. Nobody was just lonely. He was a practical joker. He wanted friends. Nicole started including him in her nightly prayers. “And bless Mr. Nobody,” she’d say.

It was just a stupid game, and I hadn’t spent much time playing with Nicole lately, and I suddenly felt bad barking at her. “Oh, okay. Hello Mr. Nobody. This is Steven.” I looked at Nicole, and she seemed to want me to keep going. “How nice of you to call, Mr. Nobody. Yep, I’m very well, thanks. How are you?”
“Worried about you,” said a voice in my ear.

There are also some wonderful messages in this story, about perfection, and humanity, and loyalty, resulting in a creepy story with some substance to it as well.

Unfortunately for this reader, while it teetered on the edge of a truly creepy read, it just never quite made the leap.

This would be a good read for the target group who like things a little creepy, and those who are struggling with the idea of who they are and how that measures up against everyone else who seems so much more perfect on the surface.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad