Summary and book reviews of Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

Only Child

by Rhiannon Navin

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin X
Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 5, 2019, 304 pages

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Book Summary

For fans of Room and the novels of Jodi Picoult, a dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children, narrated by a 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 closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community.

While Zach's mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter's parents, holding them responsible for their son's actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.

1
The Day the Gunman Came

The thing I later remembered the most about the day the gunman came was my teacher Miss Russell's breath. It was hot and smelled like coffee. The closet was dark except for a little light that was coming in through the crack of the door that Miss Russell was holding shut from inside. There was no door handle on the inside, only a loose metal piece, and she pulled it in with her thumb and pointer finger.

"Be completely still, Zach," she whispered. "Don't move."

I didn't. Even though I was sitting on my left foot and it was giving me pins and needles and it hurt a lot.

Miss Russell's coffee breath touched my cheek when she talked, and it bothered me a little. Her fingers were shaking on the metal piece. She had to talk to Evangeline and David and Emma a lot behind me in the closet, because they were crying and were not being completely still.

"I'm here with you guys," Miss ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In the opening lockdown scene, Zach repeatedly focuses on external sensations—the smell of Miss Russell's breath, the stuffiness in the closet, the popping sounds coming from the hallway. What does this tell us about how Zach perceives the world? What insight does it give us into who he is as a child, and as a narrator?
  2. After overcoming her shock, Zach's mom campaigns against the parents of the shooter in an attempt to hold them accountable for their son's actions. Do you agree with her, or do you think she is out of line?
  3. Reading the Magic Tree House books aloud "to Andy" helps Zach cope with his grief. Which books have helped you through difficult ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Rhiannon Navin's debut novel, Only Child received an overall score of 4.8 out of 5 from BookBrowse members, one of the highest ever ratings for a First Impressions book, including these comments:

The concept of writing this book through the eyes of a 6 year old was brilliant. I felt the author truly captured a child's view of the events - his fears, guilt and loss. It was a good reminder to us that a child can see clearly right from wrong and the importance of love over hate; they don't get caught up in the outside opinions that can influence adults (Terrie J).

Zach's innocent but wise perspective brought me to tears, to laughter and to a host of other emotions in between. I found myself pulling for him to show those much older and presumably wiser how to go on after such a loss (Carol S). His innocence proves to be both a safeguard and guiding light; and because he is able to find his way through the complexities of this tragedy, so are we. From first page to last, Zack is our champion, and we are his (Maureen R).

The fact that this is a debut novel blows me away! (Jill F). I have already recommended it to others (Terry J) Book clubs will have hours of discussion topics (Liz B).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (494 words).

Media Reviews

Marie Claire
This emotional tale ... sinks its hooks into you from the very first sentence and is a captivating exploration of a family’s struggle to knit itself together after an act of violence.

E. CE Miller, Bustle "19 Debut Novels Coming Out In 2018 That You Definitely Won't Want To Miss"
A novel with a child-narrator you can't help but love.

Real Simple Five Books That Won’t Disappoint
Perfect for fans of Room, this heartbreaking but important novel offers a new perspective on trauma and reminds readers that hope can be found in even the darkest moments.

USA Today, Emily Gray Tedrowe
Only Child earns its worth by avoiding gratuitous scenes of horror in favor of a careful examination of the way one boy and his parents, and their community, struggle to survive — and stay together — after the worst has happened.

Publishers Weekly
Those who can handle the difficult subject matter will find the plot to be a page-turner; Navin also excels in brilliantly capturing Zach's perspective.

Kirkus
A powerful exercise in empathy and perspective.

Author Blurb Harlan Coben
Congrats to Rhiannon Navin - this is an outstanding debut.

Author Blurb Gina Mei, Shondaland.com
It's hard to imagine a more timely novel than Only Child. Told from the perspective of a 6-year-old boy, Zach Taylor ... the book is a heartbreaking exploration of grief, family, and resilience in the face of immeasurable tragedy [and] a story that feels more fact than fiction.

Reader Reviews

Carole

Only Child
Only Child is amazing! Once I started reading it I was unable to put it down. The writing flows and the characters are well-developed .It is intense, heartbreaking and uplifting. While it starts with a school shooting, that is not what it is about. ...   Read More

Tracy B. (New Castle, DE)

Every one should read
When I realized the topic of this book I was feeling reluctant about reading this book. Wow was I ever fooled. The impact the school shooting had on every person was vividly captured. I wanted to jump in the book at many different moments; to ...   Read More

lani

A unique voice, unfortunately timely
Can my eyes produce any more tears for this heartbreaking yet ultimately uplifting story of a family consumed by a school shooting? Wise beyond his 6 year old self, Zach narrates this story in a voice so authentic, I could feel his pain as his world ...   Read More

Kathryn S. (St. Helena Island, SC)

Only Child
This is a very timely book, as it deals with the emotional effects of all-too-often occurring phenomena in our country today - mass shootings in our schools. It is told in the words of a six-year old whose community is experiencing the aftermath of ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

School Shootings & Conspiracy Theorists

Rhiannon Navin's novel Only Child is in part inspired by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took place on 14 December 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.  On that date, 20-year-old Adam Lanza murdered his mother at their home and then drove to the school, fatally shooting 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six adult staff using a Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifle (aka AR-15).

Astonishingly, some conspiracy theorists believe the absurd claim that the shootings never happened.  They propose that the whole thing was staged using child actors by the then-Democrat-controlled federal government as a way to convince people that stricter gun laws were needed – maybe even to sponsor a repeal of the 2nd ...

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