Cover image credit: HarperCollins Canada

“The first time I saw them, I thought they were angels…”

The Nest by Kenneth OppelThe Nest (Grades 5-8, Lexile: 640), the new psychological horror story by Canadian author Kenneth Oppel, is, hands down, my favorite book of the year.

Twelve-year-old Steve is home for the summer, but he isn’t able to enjoy his time off: his newborn baby brother, Theo, is suffering from an unknown illness that keeps him in the hospital and keeps Steve’s parents occupied and distracted. Steve is a naturally anxious young boy, and his anxieties and fears are only amplified by his distress over his sick brother.

One of Steve’s bigger fears is wasps, and unfortunately, a local swarm has started building a nest outside his home. One day he’s stung and consequently finds out he has a mild allergy. Shortly after, Steve starts having visions of winged creatures of light who say they’ve come to save his brother, and they need Steve to help them. Steve soon realizes that the creatures of his dreams are the wasps outside his house.

While Steve is trying to figure out exactly what the wasps want him to do, his younger sister, Nicole, is blissfully unaware of exactly what is going on in the family. She just loves her new baby brother and wants him to come home so she can “bask in his glory.” She spends her summer playing with the babysitter and having conversations with a person she calls Mr. Nobody, with whom she talks on her toy phone. But, one day, Mr. Nobody asks to talk to Steve…

The Nest is structured like a traditional horror story, and Oppel keeps ratcheting up the tension to an almost oppressive degree as Steve tries to figure out the motivations of everyone around him. Oppel’s unnerving story is supplemented by black and white drawings from Caldecott award-winning illustrator Jon Klassen, which only add to the creepy atmosphere created by Oppel.

From The Nest by Kenneth OppelFrom The Nest

This book succeeds on every level as a compelling, readable, psychological horror story for young readers. However, what pushes it beyond mere genre fiction is how emotionally resonant it becomes. Steve is a young boy that suffers from a lot of different anxieties and fears, and he has many rituals to help keep him calm. In heartbreakingly straightforward prose, Steve tells us that he is broken. He is a broken person. He believes his baby brother, Theo, is broken too. They may both look healthy and normal on the outside, but Steve knows that inside, they are both “busted up” in different ways. Steve feels like he can’t save himself, but he wants to try to save Theo. What starts out as a straight forward horror story turns into a deeper examination of self and what it means to be healthy and whole and “normal.”

The exciting and terrifying ending won’t disappoint as Steve decides to take matters into his own hands by trying to save both Theo and himself.

Oppel won a Printz Honor for his 2004 title Airborn, and with The Nest, he’s produced his best work yet. This is a deliciously creepy and profoundly beautiful book that will hopefully garner him further recognition and more fans.

Book Trailer for The Nest


Booksource Scout Award*The Nest has been nominated for a Scout Award, an internal Booksource award. Booksource will nominate books throughout the year and then ask readers to vote on their favorites to determine the winners. The Scout Award is named in honor of the main character of Booksource’s most popular title, To Kill a Mockingbird. Read more about the awards here.

Booksource Recommendations

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