by Esther Ehrlich (September 9th 2014, Wendy Lamb Books)
(Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC)
It’s 1972 and Naomi Orenstein lives in beautiful Cape Cod with her psychiatrist father, dancer mother, and teenage sister. But their idyllic life is brought to a halt when her mother is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and falls into a deep depression.
Told in first person, Nest chronicles a brief but pivotal time in a young girl’s life as she deals with loss, grief, growing up, and the prejudice that her Jewish family sometimes faces.
There are a few genuinely good points in Nest; chief among them is the writing. Ehrlich is a very competent writer; her language is lyrical and evocative.
Another aspect I found enjoyable was the setting. The author’s paints an idyllic and beautifully dreamy Cape Cod that would have been a great place to mentally visit had it not been for the heavy subject matter.
There is also a broad spectrum of important issues discussed here: from mental health to the Vietnam War, and I appreciate that the author reined in these subtopics and mainly focused on the central issue.
The inclusion of bird trivia, though not wholly successful, is also a nice touch.
The one thought that kept popping in my head the entire time I was reading Nest was “you know what they say about good intentions…” and that is the primary problem.
All of the author’s intentions are telegraphed to the reader far ahead of the events.
The beginning itself was too emotional too quickly, and in the most off-putting way.
Despite the author’s aim to be sincere, a lot of the emotional scenes seem like blatantly transparent attempts to pull on heartstrings. Even when Naomi’s mother’s ailment is revealed, it is info-dumpy and soulless instead of being moving or heartfelt.
Naomi is no help, either. I simply couldn’t relate to her at all. One minute she sounds like a caricature of childish six-year-old, the next she is spouting medical information. She wasn’t believable as a child or a real person. This problem is only exacerbated by the frequently dull and uneven first person narrative.
There were also a lot of missed opportunities as far as conveying the problems of a different time and generation. All the seventies references were either completely irrelevant or too vague to be understood by modern audiences.
But the real deal breaker is that Nest is – simply put – boring. It’s the sort of book that you force children to read because it’s about “Important Things”, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a child who would voluntarily read it.
Too contrived and deliberate for adults and too dull and depressing for children, Nest is a book that will struggle to find an audience.
Get it on Book Depository
For more excellent MG book recommendations, go to Shannon Messenger's blog.
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