Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest and Two Atmospheric Read-Alikes

BookendsNestCindy: While reading the first half of The Nest (2015), by Kenneth Oppel, I couldn’t help but remember David Almond’s Printz Honor book, Skellig (1998). Both books feature a boy who worries about his sick baby sibling. Both have strange creatures on the property. Skellig, a disheveled old man with wings, sits in a dark corner of the garage eating bluebottle flies that he catches, and in The Nest, a horde of wasps have taken up residence in a pale, papery nest clinging to the gutter . . . but the horrific reality of the nest and its inhabitants only becomes fully known much later in the story. The Nest will also be a good read-alike for A Monster Calls (2011) by Patrick Ness. The word atmospheric defines all three of these books.

Skellig by David AlmondOppel’s storytelling is as layered and nuanced here as a wasp’s nest. As the pages turn and Steve begins to realize the reality of what he has promised the wasps in hope of healing the baby, the horror intensifies. I don’t want to say too much, as it’s best to just experience this book. It has much to teach us about being broken and the lengths we’ll go to in order to be fixed. And you’ll be eyeing your gutters carefully for wasps’ nests forevermore.

The word atmospheric defines
all three of these books.

A Monster Calls by Patrick NessLynn: Cindy is right about an initial similarity between The Nest and Skellig, but I assure you, Kenneth Oppel’s benign-looking little book is one of the scariest things I’ve read in a long time! The lonely, worried narrator Steven and his OCD behaviors went straight to my heart. With each turn of the page, the tension and fear increases as Steven encounters someone or something in his dreams. Slowly, Steven learns what the soft, soothing creature actually intends and the sense of dread and fear transmitted by the story transforms into appalled horror.

Adding greatly to the impact and tone of the book are Jon Klassen’s black-and-white graphite illustrations in which the character’s faces are never shown. Each scene has an ominous, interrupted feel which is a perfect extension of the story. Yikes! This book haunted my own dreams for weeks! Dare I say, there should be a lot of buzz about this one.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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