I quite enjoyed this one. I generally really enjoy Kenneth Oppel's writing, though I was a little underwhelmed by The Boundless. This one, though, I liked a lot. It is labelled as Middle Grade, but it is definitely enjoyable by older audiences looking for a strange, quick read.
Steve is a character that you don't really see all that often in protagonists for Middle Grade novels, in that he's serious, introverted, and struggles with anxiety. It isn't something you typically see explored in younger protagonists, and I really appreciated seeing it. It is something that makes this book is as much an internal plot as an external one, and adds a lot of complexity to what would otherwise be a fairly simple plot. This is a novel that I can easily see twelve-year-old Kelly reading.
This is a strange little book. I would probably describe it as magical realism- set in the real world, but with a magical or surreal element. In this case, that element was the wasps that offer to "fix" Steve's baby brother. As with most bargains with supernatural beings, the agreement isn't what it seems, and soon it takes a turn for the dark and dangerous. Its such a bizarre concept, and makes for a very interesting reading experience.
The way this book is packaged is beautiful (plastic dust jacket, patterned under the cover), but I'm of two minds on the illustrations. Though they added some visual interest, they weren't really to my personal taste. I don't think I would have missed them, but, that said, they do contribute a bit to the atmosphere. They're more eerie than illustrations you would typically find in a MG novel.
Overall, this book is a little strange and a little dark, a unique Middle Grade novel with a refreshing protagonist, and I would love to see more books along the same lines.