Only Child: A novel
Released the week before the horrifying school shooting in Parkland, Rhiannon Navin’s debut novel Only Child is upsettingly timely. Seven-year-old Zach Taylor hides with his fellow classmates in a storage closet when a teenage gunman storms through his elementary school. As the title of the book suggests, Zach’s older brother, Andy, does not survive the attack. Overcome with grief, Zach’s mother places blame on the shooter’s parents and leads a group of victims’ parents seeking retribution. Her focused persistence widens the preexisting cracks in the family. Confused by the entire emotional mess, Zach retreats to his secret hideout and reads through a stack of Magic Tree House books in order to parse his conflicted feelings. What he discovers in the aftermath of tragedy is hopeful and inspiring.
Navin does a spectacular job at consistently articulating Zach’s voice, which is both genuine and poignant. Some readers will find the child’s narration to be off-putting, while others will think it is riveting. Regardless, it is difficult not to sympathize with such a sweetly naive, brutally honest, and heartbreakingly distressed boy. An underdeveloped subplot that exposes Mr. Taylor’s infidelity is distracting, and Mrs. Taylor’s driving fury feels contrived, particularly because she turns to anger so quickly in her grieving process. However, Only Child is achingly powerful, astutely written, and offers a promising message on empathy. This is a solid debut that deserves attention.
|Page Count||304 pages|
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