“Zach’s story starts on the worst day of his life, and takes him on a journey no-one could have expected”
The book opens with six-year-old Zach, his teacher, and his classmates hiding in a closet. A gunman has entered the school and they can hear shots being fired. It was extremely intense; I could feel the anxiety of the characters. Zach tells us how they had just come in from recess and they were about to start math lessons when the noisy pop sounds started. And then Zach heard them yelling “lockdown, lockdown, lockdown! “ They had practice lockdown drills before and Zach thought it had been fun. “Lockdown meant don’t go outside like for the fire alarm, but stay inside and out of sight.”
But Zach knows this isn’t a practice drill. In the closet, he remains as still as he can. Even though the closet is small and stuffy. He can still hear the pop noises and screams coming from outside the closet.
“Yesterday we did all the things we do every Tuesday because we didn’t know that today a gunman was going to come.”
Then it’s over. But in the chaos of the aftermath, so much is happening. Normal rules don’t apply. Zach is still scared. In the days that follow, for Zach, everything looks the same but nothing feels the same. While the adults around him try to cope, he finds his own way of coping. He has a “secret hideout”, a place he can read and lock up negative thoughts in his “brain safe”. But he still has nightmares where he hears the “pop noises” over and over.
Zack sees and hears so much of what is going on around him. The adults are all trying to cope in their own ways, ways that Zach doesn’t understand. The adults don’t see that Zach is there listening to everything they say and do.
I couldn’t help but fall in love with Zach. He was a wonderful narrator. His feelings were so honest though at times he seemed older than his years. In many ways, this child had better coping skills than the adults around him. And amidst all of the confusion and uncertainty, this six-year-old boy helps starts the long process of healing.
In my opinion, this was a well-written novel with many excellent characters. Though I’ve read other books about school shootings, this is the first I’ve read that is told from the perspective of a young child. I think it made it even more emotional. It’s incredibly sad how timely this novel is.
An insightful and honest read about life, death, anger, guilt, forgiveness, and hope.
“Only Child” was an incredibly powerful read that will likely stay with me for a very long time. I’m certainly looking forward to reading more from Rhiannon Navin.
I’d like to thank Mantle Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.