Only Child

Rhiannon Navin's poignant and powerful debut novel, Only Child, explores the aftermath of a school shooting from the eye-opening perspective of a child.

Six-year-old Zach Taylor is crouching inside a dark closet with his first-grade teacher and classmates, listening to the "pop pop pop" sounds of a gunman out in the hallway. Hours later, Zach and his mom and dad find out that 19 children and adults have been killed by a disturbed young man, setting off a period of intense sorrow in their family and their community. The father disappears into his work, while the mother is distracted by revenge against the parents of the shooter. Though he has other family members around, Zach is mostly left on his own to deal with the emotional fallout, struggling with mixed-up emotions: "I never knew you could feel more than one feeling inside of you at the same time."

Zach's observations of his parents and the wider world provide an illuminating perspective on the tragedy. He sees everything in a straightforward way, without the complexities of adult thinking, though it is also often confusing and contradictory to him. With his stuffed giraffe, Clancy, his collection of Magic Tree House books for advice and his new hideout, Zach struggles to come to terms with what happened.

Navin makes this unfathomable loss more comprehensible through Zach's eyes. The narrative is both gripping and heartbreaking--and ultimately uplifting--as Zach clumsily finds his way to moving forward, bringing his parents along with him. --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and author of Book By Book blog

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