cover image The Nest

The Nest

Kenneth Oppel, illus. by Jon Klassen. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4814-3232-0

Oppel (The Boundless) enters Gaimanesque territory with his portrayal of Steve, an older brother struggling with anxiety and his family’s distress after his newborn brother, Theodore, is diagnosed with a rare congenital disorder. After a curious gray and white wasp from the hive above their house stings Steve, he develops the ability to speak to the hive’s queen, who promises to replace the ailing baby with a new one. Agreeing to the queen’s offer, Steve confronts a dangerous traveling knife sharpener, his parents’ concerns over his mental health, and strange phone calls from Mr. Nobody, a family legend turned real, it seems. As Theodore’s health deteriorates, Steve must decide what is best for his brother and what he will do to save him. Oppel infuses the natural world of the hive with chilling scenes of the queen’s heartlessness (“Before you know it, you’ll forget all about that crappy little broken baby”) while Klassen’s graphite drawings hauntingly depict the family’s stress (an early image, all angles and shadows, shows Steve’s parents standing solemnly over the baby’s crib), as well as increasing tension between Theodore’s complications and the wasps’ growing power. In exploring the boundaries of science, self-determination, and belief, Oppel uses a dark and disturbing lens to produce an unnerving psychological thriller. Ages 8–12. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)