Friday, November 27, 2015

Guest Review: Horror

The Nest
by Kenneth Oppel
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
244 pages
Stand-alone Horror
Ages 10 and up

Reviewed by Elizabeth B., Reference Librarian

The Nest is about a tween boy named Steve who is worried about his baby brother. His brother was born a few days ago with multiple health problems that cannot be fixed with surgery or medicine, and he will have to live with these health problems for the rest of his life. This will be a great emotional and financial burden for Steve’s family. Naturally, Steve wishes there was something he could do to help his little brother, but he is powerless.

Then, 10 days after his brother is born, and shortly after Steve gets stung by a strange wasp, he dreams about a mysterious figure who tells him that it can help his brother. At first Steve thinks it's just a wishful dream, but then he starts to see little clues in the world around him that suggests the figure is real and that it really can do something for his brother. After having multiple dreams about the figure, he finds out that all he has to do to help his brother is say “yes” in his dream. However, Steve begins to suspect that he may be saying “yes” to more than just saving his baby brother and that the figure may have more sinister intentions...

This is by far one of the creepiest books I have ever read. Not only is the story truly frightening, but the writing is hauntingly beautiful, and the stark and simple black and white illustrations by Jon Klassen add to the creepy tone of the book. What really unnerved me about the story was how it turned something simple (such as a wasp’s nest) into something much more sinister.

Another aspect of the book I really liked were the numerous plot twists for which Kenneth Oppel is known. He knows how to turn your expectations around and totally surprise you by going in an unlikely direction. I also appreciated the main character, Steve. I found myself identifying with his feeling of helplessness and his desire to do everything possible to help someone he cares about. One thing I did not like was the cover of the book. It does not catch your attention and is not an accurate reflection of the contents of the book. If I was not such a big fan of this author, I would never have picked up this book based on its forgettable cover.

I would rate this book a 5 out of 5, and would recommend it to readers of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, or any reader looking for an unexpected horror story that will haunt them long after they have read the last page. Be warned though—you will never look at a wasp’s nest the same way again!

Editor's note: This book is on order for the Children's section and should be here soon to creep you out!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What we're reading: End of a thrilling trilogy

I Am the Traitor is the third book in the "Boy Nobody" series by Allen Zadoff. Except that it's not called that anymore, now it's the "Unknown Assassin" series. Confused? We who buy books for the library were confused as well!

Zadoff initially released the first book as Boy Nobody, which we bought; but then he realized it would be a series, not a stand-alone. Since the sequel was to be I Am the Mission, his publisher talked him into a re-release of the first book, calling it I Am the Weapon, naming the third book I Am the Traitor, and changing all the covers to match. So we have both Boy Nobody and I Am the Weapon on the shelf, but it's the same book.


(My suspicion is that the publisher wanted to distance it from another YA book, called Nobody, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, which is also about a boy assassin, although with a slightly different twist! I reviewed that book here, but here's a tip: Her "Naturals" series and the new book The Fixer are both better than this early novel.)

I enjoyed Zadoff's series. I thought it was clever, interesting, and certainly action-packed, with the breathless fast pacing that appeals to both teens and adults. That kind of pacing is why James Patterson sells millions of books, despite his questionable writing skills. (Zadoff's are better, let me hasten to say!) We read the first book in 8+9 Book Club last year, and those who enjoyed it will want to round out their experience with this one.

In book three, we find out more about Boy Nobody, aka Zach, we get to connect again with Howard from Book Two (one of my favorite characters, because most real), and we meet a few new people while learning more about characters from previous books. There's a little romance, a lot of betrayal, and, of course, major action.
And there is a story arc and a satisfactory resolution to Zach's questions about his father and somewhat about The Program (although I, like others, would have appreciated an epilogue to know what happens to all those children!).

The emotion this series provokes most in me is to say, "it is what it is," because of what is not here. We never really learn much back story for Mother and Father, or what connection The Program has to the government, to other secret agencies--who knows it exists? Is it operating entirely on its own? That's hard to believe, given the public nature of many of its targets. Characterization is basic, and although what is there is nicely done, it's pretty scanty.

The whole point of this series is to keep you on the edge of your seat, guessing, and it does! But sooner or later you want to quit guessing and KNOW. Some things you do learn, many things you don't. So…I'd give this a 3.5, and say that I'm glad I followed through with the trilogy. I believe it will have many teen fans, but it's not a trilogy they will remember years later and say, Wow, those books changed things for me, or Gee, I think I'll reread that. It's sheer entertainment. And that's okay!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Cafe with Cornelia Funke!

Or, what we did last Thursday night! There is a narrative and
a whole bunch of pictures on our Facebook Page, here. Take a look!