Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

a bookclique pick from Stacey Loscalzo

Only Child, Rhiannon Navin’s debut novel, is a tough book to review. I can not wholeheartedly recommend it. But I also could not put it down. My teenage daughter read it in two sittings. It was one of the toughest books I think I have ever read. The premise is every parent’s worst nightmare.

The two Taylor boys are students at McKinley Elementary School on the day of a school shooting that kills numerous students and teachers. The story opens with Zach Taylor, a first grader, and his class as they cower in the classroom closet, listening to gunfire outside their door. Zach is our narrator throughout the story.

I have read many books told through the eyes of a child, and it is not easy to make this voice ‘work’ — but it certainly does in Only Child. As I read, I kept going back to the book flap to confirm that Navin is in fact a debut author. Her writing is masterful and her ability to tell this story through Zach becomes increasingly impressive as the book progresses.

I had to text the friend that recommended Only Child to me after the shooting scene to figure out how in the world she got through to the end. At that point she wrote, “Oh wait. That’s not even the worst part.’ I’m not sure I would agree with that assessment but I do agree that a whole lot of terrible things continue to happen. And frankly, I can’t share any of them with you. This book is made up of one spoiler after another.

Needless to say, at the end of this review you might be torn about whether or not to read Only Child. If you are feeling sensitive and sad right now as I know I am, definitely enter this book with caution. That said, I found the story and the writing irresistible. And once I finished the harrowing tale, a tiny bit of me felt better knowing that there is a new writer with an incredible voice out there in this often overwhelming world.

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