Steve’s family has a newborn baby, Theo, who is in and out of the hospitals and doctors’ offices. Theo has a variety of life-threatening developmental disabilities, including heart trouble, and may not survive. Steve’s family has their hands full as he suffers from anxiety, depression, and what is suggested to be OCD. With the added stress of this sick baby, Steve’s issues are put on the side burner. At the same time, outside of the house, wasps are building a nest. Steve suffers from terrifying dreams that the wasps are building a new baby for his family within this nest. After saying yes to a deal with the queen wasp to swap babies, Steve realizes that he loves his baby just the way he is. Unfortunately, Steve made a deal with the devil and must now try to save himself and Theo. The Nest is an incredibly disturbing and terrifying juvenile Stephen King-esque thriller/horror story for fifth graders and up. Although the vocabulary, structure, pictures, and length are not worthy of crossing the title into young adult status, the concept is definitely more for the middle grades. The wasps plan on eating the broken baby. Not to include huge spoilers, but at one point, the queen tells Steve he is dead. There is a sawing off a head scene, a knife man, and at the end, a baby fingernail is found in a shell of a wasp nest. The story is just gruesome and nightmarish. Klassen illustrates with inky black pictures; the eeriness is reminiscent of Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series (for YA). Steve’s mental illness is also a more YA-appropriate topic as he is in constant fear of being pumped up with medicine and locked in a psych ward. I would struggle to recommend this title to elementary school-aged kids, and I cannot decide if it is brilliant or just insane.
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel with illustrations by Jon Klassen (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2015)