Nest by Esther Ehrlich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received from NetGalley in exchange for honest review.
This is a sweet, sad MG novel set in Cape Cod. I can see this being nominated for a Newberry Award, as it has lots of issues--mental illness, physical disability, grief, family relationships, etc. It stops just short of drowning in so many issues that I couldn't enjoy the story itself.
I loved the girls' relationship with their father, and how 'shrinky' he was. I loved how Rachel, the MC's sister, began to change as she became a teen, and how her psychologist father struggled with that--with knowing why she was doing what she did, but also being her father and emotionally invested. I also loved the girls' relationship with their mother, the little that was shown. And most of all, I loved their relationship with each other. I definitely recommend reading this with a box of tissues nearby, as it will likely make you cry. And I love a book that can make me cry.
So why only 3 stars?
I requested this book because I spent summers on the Cape as a kid, and everything Cape Cod related makes me nostalgic now. And while at times the author mentions a place (Route 6, etc), I never felt like I was THERE. I love books with an atmosphere that swallows me or brings me back, whether I have been to the place or not. I want the setting AND the atmosphere of the place. This book could have been written by someone who had never set foot on the Cape and simply Googled a map of it. So I was disappointed that the setting did not come alive. It could have just as easily been set in Michigan or Florida or Arizona and it would not have made a bit of difference. Which is fine, if your story isn't about place. But this one seemed like it wanted to be.
Also, the MC's best friend, Joey, was completely irrelevant to me. He had a story, but it was never satisfying to read. Every time she and Joey hung out, I was waiting for her to go home so I could see what was really going on. I understand that the author wanted her to have a life outside of home, too, but it seemed so trivial compared to her home life. AND, the last quarter of the book and the climax all included Joey instead of her family, and I just didn't feel like he was a strong enough or interesting enough character to carry the story that way.
I started out with high hopes, and at first, this book met them. But then it kind of fizzled out, going back and forth between the real story here and what feels like extraneous, filler pages. The focus of the book ends up seeming to be about her and Joey. I would have liked the author to pick one central plot and stick to it, just adding Joey on the side. Instead, it feels like the book can't decide what it wants to be about, like it's just random exciting incidents that don't tie together to form a strong central story.
Would recommend this to 10+ fans of MG novels. Please be prepared to talk to your child about death, grief, and dealing with the loss of a parent.
View all my reviews