The Nest by Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen
|The Nest by Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: An utterly compelling – and at times quite horrifying – drama for a young audience, that will actually hold anyone of any age in its grip.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 246||Date: April 2017|
|Publisher: David Fickling Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Steven can narrate this book to us, but he can hardly ever mention the name of his newborn baby brother. That's not down to a fault with Steven, although there are many of those – obsessive hand-washing, nightmares, anxiety attacks. It's because there's something wrong with the new addition to the family. His parents mutter behind closed bedroom doors of regretting trying for a new child so late in life, but whatever the reason there is something demanding a lot of medical care and attention, even if the child can more or less live in the family home. But hope seems to be shining a light into Steven from the most unlikely source – angels that come to visit him in his dreams, from within a pleasant, light-filled haven, with full knowledge of the family's troubles and an offer of a way out. Obviously, worried for the happiness of his family, and knowing this is just a dream, Steven will only say yes to the offer of help…
I shouldn't need to say much except this is an utterly compelling read. Yes, it's a short one – the medium page count hides the fact the font and page size don't offer much per page turn, but what counts is the sheer quality you meet with throughout. I just had to have this one down in one go – not to say that I don't like to try that at the worst of times, and not to say there's one of those pell-mell sugar-rush top-gear-only dramas here. No, this is one heck of a deep, dark and perfectly nuanced tale.
Without trying to give too much away, I can see people comparing this to the likes of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – what appears to be the nasty side of life forcing itself upon a child hero to be a source of help. This doesn't have that same balance, however – Steven isn't the beneficiary of any help, beyond the initial good feeling the angels give him. This is a world of the unexplained, of nightmare perfectly brought to life, where we all have a firm footing in the realm of the fantastical, and where I can imagine the young and impressionable having more than the willies from what happens here. Steven isn't of secondary school age, was my impression, and is likely to be read by his contemporaries, and some will really be strongly affected.
As was I, but for all the right reasons. A full summary of this would appear a little oddball, but I really was compelled for every minute. It has a metaphor, alright, as the Ness does, and like that it asks 'is it real, is it fantasy' questions. But above all it has equal amounts of narrative chutzpah and heart. And that's too rare a combination. By the end you really have got to know Steven, and his parents, and the middle sister, and Theo – the newborn. And long before then you know this is a modern classic.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
This author was new to me completely, but not to my 'Bag colleagues – Half Brother was definitely one to remember. Me and Mister P by Maria Farrer and Daniel Rieley also features a child with an imperfect sibling, but does it in a completely different – yet equally marvellous – way.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Nest by Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Nest by Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen at Amazon.com.
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