Today on TWG I am reviewing Rhiannon Navin’s heart-wrenching novel, ‘Only Child’. Big thank you to Jess Duffy from PanMacmillan for the blog tour invite, as well as the ARC of the book. Here is my review:
We went to school that Tuesday like normal.
Not all of us came home . . .
Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, six-year-old Zach can hear shots ringing through the corridors of his school. A gunman has entered the building and, in a matter of minutes, will have taken nineteen lives.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the close knit community and its families are devastated. Everyone deals with the tragedy differently. Zach’s father absents himself; his mother pursues a quest for justice — while Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and drawing.
Ultimately though, it is Zach who will show the adults in his life the way forward — as, sometimes, only a child can.
What does TWG think?
Reading ‘Only Child’ was like opening a book with the latest news bulletins in it. No, I don’t mean that the book was written in the style of a newspaper or the ‘News at 10’ program. I simply mean that the theme of Rhiannon Navin’s book is one that is so close to real life, you would expect to see it on the news.
Oh wait. We already have…
Whilst some readers may find this book too close to the bone due to recent events covered in the news over in America, I silently applaud the author for being brave enough to write a book about something which just should not be happening in everyday life. But it is. I know that people choose to read books to escape the harsh reality of day-to-day life, and don’t wish to lose themselves in a book which highlights devastating events across the globe as they could have watched the news. I appreciate that, I really do. But when something happens which makes national news, breaking families in two with the reality of having to plan funerals for their own CHILDREN, why should we hide away from the truth? I’m not saying that this book is easy to read, because it isn’t. In fact, it’s far from easy to read – it is actually heart-breaking. Families like Zach’s, have had to live through the worst news of their life and, whilst I cannot even begin to imagine what they went through, nor can I rectify the situation for them, the least that I can do is read a book which is inspired by every day events. A book which has the chance to open my eyes to what actually happened to multiple families, and will no doubt happen again.
Told via six-year-old, Zach’s, point of view, ‘Only Child’ tells the story of a day which changed lives forever. A gunman has taken over the school. Children and teachers are staying as quiet as a mouse in their hideaway, ensuring that the gunman doesn’t hear them and come for them. Lives have been lost – nineteen lives in fact. Zach is afraid – he just wants to go home. But, when the children are escorted from the school building after the gunman had been detained, Zach’s nightmare is only just beginning…
Zach is a mere six-year-old boy. Six! Even though he can understand a lot of things, he can’t quite seem to understand why his mummy isn’t with him, or why his daddy is telling him to go and play on his own, or why somebody else is taking him to bed without singing the song he usually sings with his mummy….every single night.
Zach’s parent’s are going through a nightmare, working out how to cope with their life which now has a missing piece. I might sound incredibly harsh here, especially as I haven’t been in Zach’s parent’s situation, but the way they treated Zach was heart-breaking. I understand what they have lost and that they need to deal with their emotions, but I found it hard to watch their reactions to the son they have right next to them. It really was no wonder that little Zach went off the rails. How can a six-year-old understand anything if their parents aren’t giving them the time of day?
At around three-quarters of the book, I was sitting in bed wondering why I wasn’t crying. I know I am an ice queen but I didn’t realise I was THAT much of an ice queen. Why wasn’t I crying? Other people did. Then it hit me. Sometimes something can be far too emotional for tears. Sometimes a storyline can devastate you beyond belief, and tears just wouldn’t be enough to convey your emotion. That was exactly how I felt whilst reading ‘Only Child’. My heart was breaking over and over again for the parents, the families, Zach, loved ones – AND for those this had actually happened to in real life.
But then, nearing the end of the book, the flood gates opened due to a comment which Zach had said. The innocence of that comment, broke my heart all over again and I still can’t explain why..
‘Only Child’ is devastating. It’s heart-breaking, it’s emotional, it’s realistic, it’s every parent’s worst nightmare. But, it is also beautiful. It’s also heart-warming. It’s also incredibly eye-opening. Yes, I had issues with Zach’s parents, and yes I did become angry on behalf of that little boy as he had no-one in his corner. It hurt me greatly, but I truly think that whilst ‘Only Child’ is destined to be a marmite read, it’s a story which has to be told to educate people all over the world.
‘Only Child’ is real life. ‘Only Child’ is raw. ‘Only Child’ is devastatingly beautiful and I am in awe at the authors strength and determination when it came to writing this book.