REVIEW: Nell & the Netherbeast by Adi Rule
The Netherbeast, a slinking creature with an overwhelming stench, impossibly charms young Nell. Befriending this shapeshifter propels Nell into an unforgettable summer. A beast, a haunting, a fire, and a basement that should be avoided at all costs are just part of the adventures Nell didn’t ask for. This story is equal parts heart-pounding and heartwarming.
Twelve-year-old Nell Stoker loves animals. She’s been working toward becoming a junior volunteer at her local animal shelter for what feels like forever. But now it’s summertime, and her parents are making her go to her Aunt Jerry’s old bed and breakfast in Deer Valley with her older sister Lulu. When Nell crosses paths with the Netherbeast (a creature that is decidedly not a cat), his hijinks leave her wondering if she’s made a new best friend or if Netherbeast will destroy the whole B&B (not even by accident). It’s up to Nell to help save her aunt’s B&B and solve the mystery of what might be in the basement. Between the mysteries of Rose Cottage and the creepy Netherbeast—Nell is in for an unforgettable summer adventure.
Dear Ms. Rule,
Chalk one up for the cover plus the illustrations in the book are nice, too. Put a cat on it and I will at least read the blurb. Of course I then had to know what exactly a “Netherbeast” is and it turns out he enjoys appearing “as” a cat but beyond that, he’s a talented (smelly) shapeshifter and maybe Nell’s new best friend.
Nell and her older sister Lulu are being sent off by their moms to work the summer at a B&B owned by Aunt Jerry. Nell would rather stay home and volunteer at the local animal shelter but its director feels even if Nell has great animal mystery solving skills, she needs more “people skills” while Lulu needs money for college expenses. Just as they’re ready to leave, Nell discovers a smelly “cat” with glowing eyes who tries to intimidate Nell out of her slushie. Nell, who has animal skills, is having none of that and intimidates right back. Before she knows it, the Netherbeast is trailing after her and in the car for the journey.
The last time they were at the Rose Cottage B&B, it was quaint and cozy. Now Nell senses something isn’t right besides all the falling-down-ness going on. The house is falling apart but what really freaks Nell out is the ghostly voice she hears in the dank basement. Troubles pile on when everyone realizes that social media influencers are booked to stay there in less than three weeks. With even more weird things going on, can Nell, their contractor’s son Bucky, snippy Lulu, and a smelly Netherbeast solve the mystery and save the day?
This is a nice middle grade fantasy without anything too scary. Nell finds friendship with Bucky and the two set out to discover what might be happening. Luckily the town is small, distances can be walked, city officials are friendly and there’s little for anyone to fear about them wandering around a bit. Lulu begins by being a bit horrid to her younger sister which is barely explained and then waved off later in the story. I wanted more apologies from ol’ Lulu.
The mystery is more frustrating to solve than anything else. With the ghost only uttering one word, our sleuths have little to go on for a long time. The house falling apart is worrying due to the consequences of not pleasing the influences but we’re not talking Amityville-esque hijinks. The way things are solved – both the ghost’s demands and the future of the B&B – are nicely done and tied in with clues that are provided.
My favorite character is, of course, the Netherbeast who has a wicked sense of humor, all kinds of innocent “who, me??” expressions, and mad problem solving skills. I’m not sure I’d want my own but he and Nell bond and there’s a throwaway line at the end where Nell dreams of the adventures they’ll have. Sequels? I wouldn’t be averse to reading one. B