Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Book Tour: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin*

Having a very busy schedule means that I have to be pickier about which book tours I agree to, especially at the moment where meetings, planning and marking take complete precedence. Of course, some publishing houses are prioritised and when the team at Mantle, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, got in touch to see if I wanted to take part in one of their book tours, I wasn’t going to look a gift-horse in the mouth and after a read of the book synopsis and press release, I quickly signed myself up to take part, especially on the basis that lovers of Jodi Picoult and Liane Moriarty would be a fan of the book.

Very rarely does a book have the effect on me that Only Child had.

The story is written from the perspective of Zach, a 6-year-old boy who is a student at the local elementary school. The story commences with Zach and the rest of his small class, including his teacher, forcing themselves into a small cupboard during a lockdown situation, terrified in the knowledge that a gunman is walking the school, shooting whatever crosses his path. The children and their teacher sit silently as they listen to the ‘pop’ of the bullets outside. Luckily for Zach and the rest of his classmates, the gunman evades their classroom and they are escorted safely out of the school into the nearby church to be collected by their parents. When they arrive at the church, the real heartbreak of the situation reveals itself – amongst the 19 fatalities is Zach’s elder brother Andy, aged just 10. Zach, at just six years old, doesn’t quite understand the finality of death at first

The story follows the anguish that the family face in the aftermath of their son and brother’s death. Zach in particular struggles to deal with the death of a brother that he didn’t particularly like or get on with when he was alive. Zach takes on the role of the healer, attempting to fix his parents’ already failing marriage and struggling to deal with the both survivors guilt and the relief that his troubled and cruel brother is gone.

The characters were incredibly well written and I fully understood why they acted the way they did in the aftermath of the events. We are introduced to a mother who is completely dedicated to getting justice for her dead son, to the extent where she sets out to enact her revenge on the family of the shooter, in spite of their own tragedy. This response is completely contrasted to the father, who shuts himself away entirely and blocks out his emotions, refusing to cry. Zach struggles with his emotions, lashing out at his parents and spending most of his free time locked in the closet in Andy’s room, where he’s made a shrine of sorts to his brother. He reads his story aloud – to Andy and to himself- and allows himself the time to think.

The book was beautifully poignant. Starting it on a train journey a few weeks back, I found myself quickly choked up and had to stop reading on multiple occasions. I finished the book quickly; it read incredibly well and was tragic in a thoughtful and provoking way. Having it written from a child’s perspective was particularly clever and made the writing all the more realistic. There are some beautiful moments between Zach and his dad, which made me tear up quite a bit and it’s safe to say that the entire book blew me away in the best kind of way and I feel privileged to have been invited onto the book tour.

If there is one book you pick up this week, month or year, let it be Only Child by Rhiannon Navin. You will not be disappointed. This book is definitely a book that will stay with me for a very long time, particularly whilst school shootings occur so unnecessarily frequently in our own lives. Let’s make change happen.  

Only Child will be published by Mantle books, an imprint of Pan Macmillan on 8th March 2018. Thank you so much to the lovely Jess Duffy for sending me a copy of this fantastic book! Book was provided freely but all views remain my own.


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