Only Child

Only Child

“Perfect for fans of Room… a heartbreaking but important novel.” —Real Simple Readers of Jodi Picoult and Liane Moriarty will also like this tenderhearted debut about healing and family, narrated by an unforgettable six-year-old boy who reminds us that sometimes the littlest bodies hold the biggest hearts and the quietest voices speak the loudest.Squeezed into a coat close...

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Title:Only Child
Author:Rhiannon Navin
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Only Child Reviews

  • Jamie

    So, I've always been oddly fascinated with school shootings, maybe because I was in middle school during Columbine and I was terrified of going to school every day after, that being a naturally curious person, I sought out books about this subject, whether fiction or non-fiction.

    is probably my favorite book of all time,

    horrified me but I devoured every page,

    , you get where I'm going with this. When I heard there was a book coming out th

    So, I've always been oddly fascinated with school shootings, maybe because I was in middle school during Columbine and I was terrified of going to school every day after, that being a naturally curious person, I sought out books about this subject, whether fiction or non-fiction.

    is probably my favorite book of all time,

    horrified me but I devoured every page,

    , you get where I'm going with this. When I heard there was a book coming out that would be about a school shooting in an elementary school and would be told from the perspective of a first grader who survives but loses his brother in the horror, I knew I had to read this but knew it would be a heart-wrenching challenge.

    Navin does a fantastic job writing this unique perspective and observing the impact on a family after a terrible tragedy like this through the eyes of a six year old. I cried my eyes out over these pages but it was worth it to read this story.

    Thank you to Knopf Publishing for providing an advance review copy. All opinions are my own.

  • Susan

    This novel deals with the aftermath of a school shooting from the point of view of young Zach Taylor. His teacher, Miss Russell, hides her class successfully while a shooter prowls the corridors of McKinley Elementary School, but, when Zach is reunited with his mother, Melissa, and dad, Jim, they find that his older brother, Andy, is nowhere to be found. Later, it is discovered that Andy was one of a number of children who were killed by the adult son of the school security guard, Charles Ranale

    This novel deals with the aftermath of a school shooting from the point of view of young Zach Taylor. His teacher, Miss Russell, hides her class successfully while a shooter prowls the corridors of McKinley Elementary School, but, when Zach is reunited with his mother, Melissa, and dad, Jim, they find that his older brother, Andy, is nowhere to be found. Later, it is discovered that Andy was one of a number of children who were killed by the adult son of the school security guard, Charles Ranalez.

    Andy was bright, excellent at sports and had ODD, or oppositional defiant disorder, which I had never heard of before. Basically, it meant he suffered from bad tempers, and rages, and you quickly get the impression that Zach was a little wary of him. So wary that, at first, he is even a little glad that Andy is gone. Nobody around to laugh at him, or call him names and his parents all to himself. Only, that isn’t to work out quite as he hoped. Unable to reconcile themselves with what has happened, Melissa and Jim pull apart in their reactions to the tragic, and terrible, events and loss of their son.

    Jim retreats into work. Melissa is bent on revenge, even though she was the favourite of the kindly Charles Ranalez, when she attended the school. Zach is a small child, alone and afraid, who has to attempt to deal with his feelings, as his parents struggle with theirs. Allowing the viewpoint to be that of a young child helps us see the harsh reality behind the adult politeness. For example, when Jim speaks glowingly of Andy, Zach recalls the arguments that his behaviour caused. As the book continues, he sees the hypocrisy of the adults, begins to learn what Andy really meant to him and, unhappy with all the arguments and stress caused by his brother’s death, he does his best to make bridges between the adults around him.

    This is a moving and impressive debut. . The author shows how Zach’s favourite books, The Magic Tree House series (favourites of my own children when younger) help him make sense of his feelings. You really feel for Zach, confused and ignored, while also understanding the behaviour of his parents Who really knows how they would behave in the face of such tragedy and who can judge anybody suffering such pain? Still, this novel shows that it is not just parents who suffer loss, but children too, and adults cannot ignore, or trivialise, their feelings. This would be an excellent book for a reading group, with much to discuss. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  • Laura Rash

    This book is a story of a 7 year old boy named Zach who survives a school shooting but his brother, Andy, doesn’t. The heart wrenching story of the aftermath is told from Zach’s POV. From the opening pages of him hiding in a closet listening to the “pop pop” sounds to the emotional overload the whole family experiences afterwards is entrancing. While it about gutted me to read it, I’m sincere in the fact that I’m glad I did. It’s a tremendously well written & unique book.

    Thanks to the publi

    This book is a story of a 7 year old boy named Zach who survives a school shooting but his brother, Andy, doesn’t. The heart wrenching story of the aftermath is told from Zach’s POV. From the opening pages of him hiding in a closet listening to the “pop pop” sounds to the emotional overload the whole family experiences afterwards is entrancing. While it about gutted me to read it, I’m sincere in the fact that I’m glad I did. It’s a tremendously well written & unique book.

    Thanks to the publisher for this early copy in exchange for review.

  • Marjorie

    6-year-old Zach Taylor is hiding in the closet with his teacher and other classmates. They cringe in terror as they listen to the sounds of “pop”, “pop”, “pop” in the hallway of their school. A gunman is loose in the school and they have no idea which room he’ll enter next. After the police come, Zach goes to the hospital with his mother, where they learn that Zach’s 10-year-old brother Andy is one of the 19 victims of the shooting. In the days following Andy’s death, Zach’s mother holds the sho

    6-year-old Zach Taylor is hiding in the closet with his teacher and other classmates. They cringe in terror as they listen to the sounds of “pop”, “pop”, “pop” in the hallway of their school. A gunman is loose in the school and they have no idea which room he’ll enter next. After the police come, Zach goes to the hospital with his mother, where they learn that Zach’s 10-year-old brother Andy is one of the 19 victims of the shooting. In the days following Andy’s death, Zach’s mother holds the shooter’s parents responsible and goes on a crusade for justice. She becomes someone Zach doesn’t know. He finds refuge in Andy’s closet where Zach reads books to Andy and feels a connection to his lost brother. He tries to sort through his feelings on his own by drawing pictures of his feelings and giving each feeling a color.

    This is a very sensitive, beautifully written book about a young boy and his family trying to find their way after the tragic loss of a brother and son. I thought the author did a wonderful job in finding the perfect pitch for this young boy’s voice. The character of Zach is very believable and his experiences and reactions are appropriate for his age. The way he struggles to work out his feelings on his own, as his parents deal with their own grief and aren’t always there for him, just broke my heart. His brother, Andy, suffered from oppositional defiant disorder and was often cruel to Zach. Zach wonders if things might be better without Andy but of course then he has much guilt about those feelings.

    The books that Zach read to his brother Andy in the hopes that Andy might hear him in heaven were the Magic Treehouse series. I’ve read several of those books to my grandson and knew the stories that Zach was reading. That connection made it impossible for me to distance myself from the sadness of this book. It was just as though one of my little grandson’s friends was telling this story and made the book’s heartache even more potent.

    Out of the mouths of children comes wisdom. Zach’s discovery of compassion and how healing must be done is truly wondrous to read and a lesson that the adults in this book desperately needed.

    Highly recommended.

    This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

  • Nicole (Read Eat Sleep Repeat)

    What a way to start out the new year! Only Child was not only the first book I completed in 2018, but it absolutely wrecked me.

    “I never knew you could feel more than one feeling inside of you at the same time.

    Especially feelings that are opposites. I know you can feel excited, but when you do what made you excited, the excited feeling goes away and you feel happy because it was fun. Or sad because it’s over already, like right after everyone leaves from your birthday party. But more than one fee

    What a way to start out the new year! Only Child was not only the first book I completed in 2018, but it absolutely wrecked me.

    “I never knew you could feel more than one feeling inside of you at the same time.

    Especially feelings that are opposites. I know you can feel excited, but when you do what made you excited, the excited feeling goes away and you feel happy because it was fun. Or sad because it’s over already, like right after everyone leaves from your birthday party. But more than one feeling all at the same time, right next to each other or on top of each other and all mixed up inside you? I never knew that could happen.”

    It’s hard to believe this is Navin’s debut novel. Superbly written, it reads like you are in the head of a seven year old boy, even though as an adult, it’s easy to read between the lines and see the bigger picture. And it made me feel a full range of emotions, from fear and anger to sorrow and joy. I teared up at several points along the way and full on cried for the last twenty or so pages.

    You really don’t need to know much more before going into Only Child; the blurb says it all. Let me just sum it up by saying it is poignant, heartbreaking, and powerful. HIGHLY recommended.

    *Many thanks to Penguin Random House’s First to Read program for providing an arc of this edition in exchange for an honest review.

    **Quote taken from an advance readers copy and may vary slightly from the final edition.

  • Elyse

    Audiobook....read by a very talented child with a growing resume by the name of Kivlighan de Montebello.

    Kivlighan has appeared in 11 films, 1 theater production, 2 television shows, and 5 voice overs. I was so impressed by the presence of this child’s voice - ( honestly one of the very best VOICE OVERS I’ve listened to in my entire history of audio-listening.

    I HAD TO LOOK THIS KID UP. WHO WAS HE? Pretty amazing - that’s for sure!!!

    His talent ( for what his job was to do) impressed me - - differe

    Audiobook....read by a very talented child with a growing resume by the name of Kivlighan de Montebello.

    Kivlighan has appeared in 11 films, 1 theater production, 2 television shows, and 5 voice overs. I was so impressed by the presence of this child’s voice - ( honestly one of the very best VOICE OVERS I’ve listened to in my entire history of audio-listening.

    I HAD TO LOOK THIS KID UP. WHO WAS HE? Pretty amazing - that’s for sure!!!

    His talent ( for what his job was to do) impressed me - - different- but - WOW- like Sherman Alexis did with his memoir “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”.

    This child -Kivlighan-is a PRO voice narrator!!!!

    Granted .....I’ll admit - there were definitely times that I felt this 6 year child was speaking much more precocious than any six-year-old child I knew.

    When I first started listening to this - Paul and I were both piddling around in the yard.

    It was dangerous listening to “Only Child” with Paul. My husband was a bad boy influence!

    He started laughing. Then I started laughing. This ‘child’ said things that were funny but also things that we both felt no kid would ever say….NOT THE WAY HE SAID THEM.....but.....he was so darn adorable—I didn’t care.

    I wasn’t far enough into the book yet...to ever believe I’d find him having me cry real tears a HALF DOZEN TIMES....

    I just LOVED HIS VOICE. Plus .....as the story continued ( by now Paul was long gone)- this story became more and more REAL.

    NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO SAY:

    IT IS DEEPLY SAD - DEVASTATING- of what happened in Parkland, Florida yesterday. A senseless violent mass shootings— sooo horrific - I can’t even wrap my mind around what the families are going through. Yet ...I am so so sorry for the suffering the families are going through.

    I can’t believe I was actually listening to ‘this’ story when Paul walked in the door and said ... “have you heard the news in Florida?” I hadn’t ..

    Fiction/ non fiction..

    What to make of all this?

    Six year old Zack is one incredible phenomenal character. Memorable!!!

    The start of this book begins with the horrific shooting at McKinley elementary. The writing has our full attention instantly....

    LIFE CHANGED INSTANTLY.....

    And.....

    Zack’s older brother, Andy, was killed....

    The rest of this book - the next 85 percent of the storytelling - takes us inside the Taylor family. We meet Jim, Melissa, ( Zack’s parents), extended family members, the gun man’s family, neighbors, and others in the community. The largest focus is on what’s happening in the Taylor family from Zack’s perspective.

    DURING THE LATE HOURS FROM ZACK’S BED:

    “Pop pop pop..... screaming sounds were coming out of my mouth but then I heard daddy’s voice, “Zack, it’s ok”..... but I still made screaming sounds and I couldn’t help it because the gun man was back again. How did he get in our house....and now he’s going to shoot us and we will be dead like Andy”.

    The nightmares began ‘instantly’, too, as soon as the Zack was back home.

    When Zack’s grandmother, Mimi, went grocery shopping, and brought bananas back to the house along with other items… Zack was furious inside. He knew that the only person in the family that like bananas was Andy. Zack got so mad inside that he threw those bananas away.

    This was just one example of how his ‘acting out’ was seen as a bother.

    Zack became an annoyance. He was in the way of the ‘adults’ being busy grieving.

    His mother was under extreme stress — for weeks - months - everything was “not now Zack”. Her ‘acting out’ hurt everyone around her - besides herself.

    When my own father died - I was 4 years old - I remember those months of neglect.. “stay away from mom”. “Mom is too sad to have time for me”.

    Months of neglect turned into years.

    It was pretty painful for me reading how often Zack was left alone. It was obvious to see that his mommy thought it was easier if he was just out of the way. I didn’t have those words ( the obvious ) when I was 4 years old. But it ‘was’ the painful truth. I wasn’t included in daddy’s loss. What does a 4 or 6 year old know? LISTEN TO ZACK......HE KNOWS MORE THAN THE ADULTS IN HIS HOUSE!!!

    I remember wanting to speak to my mother one day about missing my daddy. She said... “well his death was a hell of a lot harder on me than it was on you”. I believed her. Now I know she was wrong. Loss is not a competition.

    For awhile Zack noticed that his mom he was busy cleaning invisible messes. His Daddy stayed in his office in the house all the time.

    Zack created a hide-a-way spot for himself in his brothers room inside the closet. It became his secret hiding place where he like to read books to his brother and talk to him. The books he was reading from used to be his brothers ...they were adventure stories -He had all 53 books to the Magic Treehouse books. These books turn out to be wonderful wise inspirations about healing — but I’m jumping ahead of myself.

    Zack’s parents were dealing with their grief differently and separately - each dealing with the loss of their son in their own way. NOT Effectively!

    Zack was left to figure out how to grieve alone too. His books were giving him great supportive ideas. They stimulated his own creative imagination and gave him strength. I was moved!

    However .....when a house is on fire - ( not literally) - people IN THE HOUSE IN MAJOR CHAOS —it’s not easy for ANY book to inspire miracles.

    Soon fighting between Zack’s parents elevated like RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS!

    My God .....it got so darn ugly - (frightening to me) - so you might be able to image what parents screaming at each other are doing to a 6 year child.

    There was a scene at the funeral that I related with. Zack and I shared an embarrassing- shameful feeling.

    Zack was 6.

    I was 4.

    Zack had an ‘accident’ in his pants. I did too.

    As children - we were all dressed up and we were supposed to be big boys and girls - mommy was going to have a very hard day. Well, pooping in your pants at the family funeral- when already petrified to even LOOK INSIDE THE BOX- and pooping in your pants is a hard day for a child too.

    The author did excellent job

    getting across the damage that is done by parents to children —even if justifiably so- when they are neglected.

    AND........how parents fighting hurts kids -

    AND that loss is deeply felt by kids too. ..

    Zack painted a ‘feelings’ painting with colors to express how he was feeling

    Red - was for embarrassing

    Black - was for scared

    Gray/green - was for mad and angry

    Yellow was for happy

    An invisible hole what’s for loneliness.

    White was for sympathy.. (he came up with sympathy with his dad).

    Zack was a very special child. His family experience an unbearable loss. His parents had other problems bursting at the seams ‘before’ the tragic school rampage where 19 families at Zack’s school directly were affected.

    The reality is .....the families suffering from the events in Florida yesterday - were also dealing with challenges ‘before’ too.

    Author Rhiannon Navin opens our eyes to see things we have not thought about -

    Yes —- this book makes you cry —-but it does other things too.

    As uncomfortable as it was to witness the parents fighting —AGAIN AMAZING VOCAL NARRATOR—it was valuable to witness it from a CHILD’S Ears.

    Maybe it’s a cop out when adults say, “Oh, children are resilient”.

    Perhaps, but are we sure? Do adults justify children’s resiliency for their own benefits?

    I loved this book - I loved Zack’s dad. I loved Zack’s teacher.

    AND.....I especially loved ZACK TAYLOR!!!

  • Nancy

    Zach is seven years old when his world collapses. A mentally ill man enters his elementary school with a gun. One of those murdered is Zach's ten year old brother Andy, a bright and vivacious child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder whose management had already stressed their parent's marriage. They are unable to agree on anything now: the mother bent on revenge, the father showing understanding of Zach's regression while he goes to work and carries on. 

    Zach is left on his own to deal with the c

    Zach is seven years old when his world collapses. A mentally ill man enters his elementary school with a gun. One of those murdered is Zach's ten year old brother Andy, a bright and vivacious child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder whose management had already stressed their parent's marriage. They are unable to agree on anything now: the mother bent on revenge, the father showing understanding of Zach's regression while he goes to work and carries on. 

    Zach is left on his own to deal with the conflicting feelings he is experiencing. In his secret hideout in Andy's closet he colors his emotions on separate paper; they are easier to handle this way. Red for embarrassment for peeing in bed like a baby. Black for for being scared and the bad dreams at night in which he relives the day of the school shooting. Green, like the Incredible Hulk, for anger. Gray for the sadness, like clouds on a rainy day.

    He also returns to his favorite book series in which children learn the secrets of happiness.

    Rhiannon's debut novel Only Child is written in Zach's voice, told from his perspective. The adult world feels distant and nearly unmindful of his existence. As adult readers, we understand the hints that pass over Zach's understanding. And we are heartbroken for Zach and for his parents as well.

    It is marvelous that Zach is the moral compass of the story. He demonstrates a wisdom that the adults lack; caught up in their own pain they are oblivious to each other's needs. Zach seeks for healing and wholeness, and as the novel ends with Christmas time arrived, he is truly the light which comes to show the way to salvation for his broken family: forgiveness, kindness, thinking of others, and clinging to love.

    The journey into the horror of a school shooting resolves by showing us how to live in this world. In the end, I was glad to have read this book, even now in mid-December when others turn to light holiday fare. 

    I received a free ebook from the publisher through First to Read in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  • Celia

    A terrible thing has happened. A sick man has gotten into McKinley School. He killed a bunch of people with his gun. One of these is Andy Taylor. His younger brother, Zach, also in the school at the time of the shooting, has survived.

    The entire story is told from the point of view of six year old Zach. He sees his parents arguing and drawing away from each other. He feels very lonely and neglected.

    I don’t mind dysfunctional people, but when its parents of a small child, it is hard for me to tak

    A terrible thing has happened. A sick man has gotten into McKinley School. He killed a bunch of people with his gun. One of these is Andy Taylor. His younger brother, Zach, also in the school at the time of the shooting, has survived.

    The entire story is told from the point of view of six year old Zach. He sees his parents arguing and drawing away from each other. He feels very lonely and neglected.

    I don’t mind dysfunctional people, but when its parents of a small child, it is hard for me to take. The mother Melissa, seeking ‘justice’, seems to be in it more for revenge. Ugly. And the arguing between Melissa and Zach’s father Jim, is very ugly and violent too.

    I thought the book very well written and the story flowed well. Unfortunately, though, it had negative triggers for me. Yesterday, I described the book to a friend, and she said she could not read it. Too upsetting.

    I have to commend the author though, for making this story so realistic that it evoked in me the responses I experienced.

    4 stars.

  • Lisa

    A remarkable debut novel ripped from the much to common school shooting headlines but brilliantly told through a different perspective.

    SUMMARY

    In ONLY CHILD six-year-old Zack Taylor tells us a story. It’s the story of how he survives a deadly shooting at his school by hiding in his classroom closet with his teacher. But one of the 19 casualties was his 10-year-old brother, Andy. Zach’s mother is utterly shocked and devastated. She is on a desperate quest for justice against the shooter’s parents

    A remarkable debut novel ripped from the much to common school shooting headlines but brilliantly told through a different perspective.

    SUMMARY

    In ONLY CHILD six-year-old Zack Taylor tells us a story. It’s the story of how he survives a deadly shooting at his school by hiding in his classroom closet with his teacher. But one of the 19 casualties was his 10-year-old brother, Andy. Zach’s mother is utterly shocked and devastated. She is on a desperate quest for justice against the shooter’s parents and has no time for Zach. Zach tells us about how he felt invisible. And how he made a secret hideout and surrounded himself with a picture of his brother, his favorite books and some special drawings he made of his feelings. He is on his own to figure out how to cope. So he starts reading his Magic Tree House books and thinks he has found an answer. Armed with the hope and willfulness of a child, Zach attempts to help his parents find love and forgiveness again.

    REVIEW

    I finished this heartbreaking book yesterday morning; but by yesterday afternoon the subject of this book became our reality, once again. Another school shooting in another city. This one in Parkland, Florida at a high school where 17 children were murdered, and shattered families are left in tatters. When will it end?

    ONLY CHILD left me in tears. It’s heartbreaking because it is so real and so senseless. But it’s also a beautiful story of a child’s resilience and a child’s desire to make things right. With Zack as the narrator, you will be instantly engrossed by his telling of the pops he heard while hiding in the closest. You will marvel at the way he described his feelings with colors, and you will quickly fall in love with this six-year-old’s huge heart.

    RHIANNON NAVIN’s debut novel is stellar. The characters are as real as a book can get and the writing is impeccable. While the subject matter may be difficult to read, it’s fascinating and perhaps even valuable to understand it from the mind of a child, who is also a survivor and a sibling of one that is lost forever. I listened to the Audible version of this book, which made it all the more real. The narrator, Kivlighan de Montebello was endearing.

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