Only child

Rhiannon Navin, 1978-

Book - 2018

Surviving a horrific school shooting, a six-year-old boy retreats into the world of books and art while making sobering observations about his mother's determination to prosecute the shooter's parents and the wider community's efforts to make sense of the tragedy.

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FICTION/Navin Rhiannon
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1st Floor FICTION/Navin Rhiannon Due Aug 27, 2022
Psychological fiction
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2018.
First edition
Physical Description
287 pages ; 25 cm
Main Author
Rhiannon Navin, 1978- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Things were bad enough in the Taylor household even before unthinkable tragedy struck. Before Andy Taylor was gunned down at his elementary school, he was afflicted by oppositional defiant disorder, which leads to violent tempers, and Dad had been having an affair with a neighbor. Now that Andy is gone, one of 19 confirmed dead in the attack, his family, including Andy's younger brother, Zach, are understandably having difficulty coping with the aftermath of searing loss. First-grader Zach narrates Navin's heart-wrenching debut, and his innocent voice effectively grounds the story. He watches as his mother launches a mission in pursuit of justice, and as his parents grow increasingly distant from each other. As Zach struggles to make sense of the increasing "thunderstorms" between Mom and Dad, leaning on the Magic Tree House books and the Hulk to give him some perspective, Navin adds layers of (occasionally cloying) complexity. Navin explores the intersection between violence and mental illness in this important and timely book. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

German-born, New Rochelle, NY-based Navin offers one of the big debuts of next year, narrated by a six-year-old who has suffered a terrible trauma. Zach huddles in a school closet with his classmates and teacher as a gunman ranges through the school, killing 19 people. Later, he retreats into his own special hideaway and uses his imagination to heal. With a 125,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

DEBUT Navin's first novel guides us through the aftermath of a tragedy through the eyes of a six-year-old child. When Zach Taylor's older brother, Andy, is killed in a school shooting, he is mostly left to fend for himself emotionally while his parents struggle to cope with the loss. Zach's father retreats into his work, while his mother turns to organizing a group of other affected parents to take legal action against the shooter's family. Unable to fully understand what's happening or process his emotions, Zach retreats to a "hideout" in Andy's bedroom closet. As his family continues to deteriorate, he learns to use both his anger and his sympathy to begin the healing process. While the narration approaches preciousness at times, telling the story through Zach's eyes allows it to focus on human emotion and family dynamics without getting bogged down in political posturing. Zach has a refreshing honesty because he's not old enough to have learned to filter his emotions, and, as befits a child, many of his observations are sensory: smells, facial expressions, bodily functions. VERDICT A tough, topical story with a hopeful conclusion for the family, this is a strong book club choice. [See Prepub Alert, 8/28/17.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Navin's gripping debut opens with first grader Zach Taylor huddling in a closet with his teacher and classmates while shots and screams echo in his school's corridors. After the shooting, Zach's parents' frantically search for Andy, Zach's older brother, only to discover that he is one of the victims. Zach's gradual comprehension of the tragedy includes his bewilderment when people bring food to his house, which he thinks of as an unseemly party. As he works through his memories of Andy, he comes to an aching realization of the depth of his loss. His parents are too preoccupied with their own grief to notice Zach's anguish or to bring him to therapy. He takes refuge in books, reading hidden in Andy's bedroom closet, and is the bystander to his mother's nervous volatility and his father's adulterous liaison. When his mother resolves to bring a lawsuit against the parents of the boy who wielded the gun, in spite of the fact that the two families have had a longtime friendly relationship, Zach conceives a dangerous "mission" to bring healing to his parents and the community. Those who can handle the difficult subject matter will find the plot to be a page-turner; Navin also excels in brilliantly capturing Zach's perspective. 125,000-copy announced first printing. (Feb.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

In this gut-wrenching debut novel, readers meet Zachary Taylor, a first grader, just as his 10-year-old brother is gunned down in a school shooting. The book begins with Zach and his classmates hiding in the classroom closet with their terrified teacher. That experience is riveting, as is the following account of a family, broken by needless violence, desperately trying to cope. Zach's murdered brother, Andy, was a difficult child, who had oppositional defiant disorder and, as a result, anger and behavior issues. His parents grieve, but Zach is initially glad that his mean brother is not around anymore. However, the gentle themes of loyalty, love, and good versus evil found in Zach's favorite books, Mary Pope Osborne's "The Magic Treehouse" series, resonate for Zach and help him to understand that his family had issues because of Andy's behavioral problems, but they all loved Andy regardless. The first-person narration reflects six-year-old Zach's limited perspective of the world. Teens may initially find the somewhat stilted language distracting, but they will soon become absorbed. Zach's voice and his parents' emotions are genuine. On a par with John Green's evocative writing, Navin's tale can be a difficult read. But this work is an important reflection of the culture, with school shootings as commonplace as they are. VERDICT For teens who appreciate intense emotional stories and those who feel compelled to read about this new normal, such as in Marieke Nijkamp's This Is Where It Ends.—Gretchen Crowley, formerly at Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA Copyright 2018 School Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Surviving a horrific school shooting, a six-year-old boy retreats into the world of books and art while making sobering observations about his mother's determination to prosecute the shooter's parents and the wider community's efforts to make sense of the tragedy. A first novel.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Surviving a horrific school shooting, a six-year-old boy retreats into the world of books and art while making sobering observations about his mother's determination to prosecute the shooter's parents and the wider community's efforts to make sense of the tragedy.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

“Only Child triumphs. Zach, at only 6 years old, understands more about the human heart than the broken adults around him. His hope and optimism as he sets out to execute his plan will have every reader cheering him on, and believing in happy endings even in the face of such tragedy. . . . Navin manages to make Zach’s voice heartbreakingly believable.”—Ann Hood, The Washington Post“Perfect for fans of Room… a heartbreaking but important novel.” —Real Simple  Readers of Jodi Picoult and Liane Moriarty will also like this tenderhearted debut about healing and family, narrated by an unforgettable six-year-old boy who reminds us that sometimes the littlest bodies hold the biggest hearts and the quietest voices speak the loudest. Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach's mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter's parents, holding them responsible for their son's actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.