by Kenneth Oppel
First sentence: “The first time I saw them, I thought they were angels.”
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Content: It’s sad and a bit odd, but there’s nothing, content-wise or language-level, that would kick it out of the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.
Steven’s baby brother has been in the hospital ever since he was born. The family and the doctor’s aren’t quite sure what’s going on, and how to fix it. So, when Steven starts having dreams about angels who have come to fix the baby, he figures that he’s either incredibly stressed about it all (which is what his therapist says) or that he’s going crazy (which is what he secretly thinks).
Then those angels turn out to be a strange new breed of wasp that’s taken up residence in Steven’s house and suddenly what sounded like a good idea — fixing the baby — turns out to be a Horribly Bad One. Especially since Steven is fatally allergic to wasp stings.
This, I think, has to be (hands down) the weirdest book I’ve read. It’s a unique blend of things: mature and yet geared toward younger people; an allegory and a horror tale; both impossibly sad and incredibly strange. I’m not sure it always works as a story. But on the other hand, I kept coming back to it. I wanted to know how it ended, I wanted to know the choices that Steven made and how it all played out. And while I was never truly Terrified (which is why I’m hesitant to call this horror), I was really weirded out. It’s strange, it’s gripping, it’s odd, it’s engrossing.
In the end, I thought it was pretty good. I just have no idea who to sell it to.
(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)