Only Child was a very difficult read based around a very relevant issue; a school shooting. This book is not for the fainthearted, because it will ruin you, but it’s an important book & one that I’m glad that I read as it’s helped me gain more of an understanding of loss & total devastation.
I was sent an e-copy of this book by Pan Macmillan in return for an honest review.
This book contains intense details of a school shooting, loss & mental health issues. This book is also told from the perspective of a child. Native slurs are used by characters in the book.
Before I start my review I should probably briefly explain what this book is actually about, because I think everyone should go into this book with their eyes very much open as the issues Only Child tackles are very hard-hitting & difficult to read…
The book opens during a school shooting at 6-year-old Zach’s school; the book is told from his perspective & he is hidden in a cupboard with his teacher & some classmates. The sound of gunfire is detailed & when Zach & his companions are allowed to leave the building there are descriptions of dead & dying people around him. Soon after, Zach’s mother arrives at the church that the children & staff have been moved to, & this is when Zach realises that his older brother, Andy, is missing. There is then the detailed wait of Zach’s parents waiting to find out if Andy is at the hospital, or if he has died. We learn that Andy was one of the first victims of the shooter & that he did not survive.
The family then fall into a very dark hole, where none of them know how to cope & start to take things out on one another; Zach’s parents argue, Zach is often ignored & each parent handles their loss in a very different way. Mum is angry at the family of the shooter, whilst dad is almost frozen in time. Meanwhile Zach finds solace in Andy’s walk-in-wardrobe & struggles to deal with what has happened, almost, on his own. The way Zach deals with the loss of his brother is the main focus of the book, as it is told from Zach’s perspective, & the way Zach’s emotions have been written is, in my opinion, incredibly accurate. During this read I very much felt like I was going through this horrific part of the family’s lives with them; the writing is spot-on throughout & the story is very well put together.
I don’t know if Rhiannon Navin has gone through the horror of an experience like that of Zach, but it definitely felt like this book had been written by someone who had been there… the writing was painfully personal & throughout the book it felt like Zach’s story had happened to me; that I was in Zach’s position & was feeling everything he was. Although the writing made me cry & totally broke my heart, I can’t fault it at all – Rhiannon Navin certainly has a talent & deserves the upmost respect for this incredible piece of literature. It’s just a shame that it’s something authors need to write about now.
As I’ve said, Only Child is very honest; when Zach first learns of the loss of his brother he considers how life might be better now, without Andy’s anger & destructive personality… unlike what you would expect, Rhiannon hasn’t painted Andy as the perfect son & this is one of the things that made the book feel even more realistic. This part of the book made me consider how people react to the loss of someone who isn’t perfect, & made me realise that, sometimes, people may try to make themselves feel better by saying that their life might be better off without the person they’ve lost. Zach soon realises though, that life could never be better without his big brother, & that he was only moving through the first stage of grief.
Zach also asks a lot of questions, or thinks about a lot of things, that adults may not even consider; Zach asks his parents where his brother’s body is as no one has spoken about it & he also comes up with coping mechanisms that adults wouldn’t consider, even though they may benefit from them. One of the things this book really made me realise is how brilliant children are, & that’s probably the only beautiful thing about this story. Zach’s parents are brought back together by Zach’s kind, & broken, heart – reminding them that they haven’t lost everything, even though it may feel like it.
I only recommend this book to you if you think you can handle it; I cried throughout this read & I suspect almost everyone that reads Only Child will do the same. You can get a copy of the book using the links below: if you use the Amazon or Book Depository links to make a purchase I will receive a small fee at no cost to you so please consider doing so.
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Book Depository | Waterstones | Wordery
Unfortunately, this title is not currently available on Audible.