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Only Child

Only Child

Blurb

Six year old Zach Taylor is hidden in a cloakroom with his teacher and classmates listening as a gunman roams the halls of his school. By the time he is done he will have claimed 19 victims.

Afterwards Zach's life will be changed forever. His dad will be absent at work more than ever and his mum will become obsessed with her crusade for justice. Will Zach be able to help them find a way through their grief or will the tragedy rip their family apart forever?


Our Review

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin was a fantastic read.

Six year old Zach Taylor is hidden in a cloakroom with his teacher and classmates listening as a gunman roams the halls of his school. By the time he is done he will have claimed 19 victims.

Afterwards Zach's life will be changed forever. His dad will be absent at work more than ever and his mum will become obsessed with her crusade for justice. Will Zach be able to help them find a way through their grief or will the tragedy rip their family apart forever?

Only Child captured my attention right from the very start when I saw the title of the first chapter: The Day The Gunman Came.

“The thing I remember about the day the gunman came was my teacher Miss Russell’s breath. It was hot and smelled like coffee.”

When Zach and his classmates are hidden with Miss Russell in the cloakroom I could hardly stand the suspense especially when she had to keep telling the classmates to be quiet.

I felt like I was there with Zach and his classmates listening to the POP of the gun going off.

“We kept hearing the POP sounds outside. And screaming.

POP POP POP

Always three Pops and then quiet again. Quiet or screaming.”

They children had just come in from recess when the sounds of shooting started from the entrance hall near the security guard station. Charlie, the security guard had been there for just over 30 years and had been there when Zach’s mom was younger.

Miss Russell had looked into the corridor and sworn when she saw what was happening, that was right before a voice came over the speakers telling them it was a lockdown situation.

Hidden in the cloakroom Zach was one of the few not crying because he didn’t want his classmates to see him.

Zach becomes much more scared when he hears his teacher on the phone talking to the police and telling them there is a gunman in the halls.

When the police come the children are asked to line up ready to leave the school. They are told not to look around them in the corridor.

Zach looks back though because he can hear Charlie shouting ‘no’ and he wants to make sure he is ok. He immediately regrets it though.

“People lying on the floor in the hallway with ambulance people and police around them and bending over them. And blood. At least I thought it was blood. It was very dark red or black puddles, like paint that spilled, all around on the floor of the hallway and some of the walls. And I saw the older kids from fourth and fifth grade walking behind Ryder, with very white faces like ghosts and some of them were crying and had blood on them. On their faces and clothes.”

The police lead them to a nearby church and Zach is surprised to see that some of the older kids are crying still and when his mum arrives he is embarrassed when she calls him her baby in front of all the other kids.

“Then mommy started to look around and said, ‘Zach, where’s your brother?”

Zach hasn’t seen Andy all day but that is not unusual because Andy is ten years old and they never hang around together at school. Zach realises he hasn’t seen him since getting to the church though and has not thought about him either.

At this point Zach’s mum is on the phone to Zach’s dad telling him that Zach is at the church but that she can’t find Andy and then she begins to cry.

Not long after Zach’s dad arrives the police tell those gathered in the church that the injured children are being treated at a nearby hospital and that there have been some fatalities but at that point they are not able to release their names. Zach’s dad decides to stay at the church to wait for more news while Zach and his mum go to the hospital in search of Andy.

Zach doesn’t really know what it is going on but when he sees his dad walk into the hospital he knows something is wrong.

“Daddy walked in. I was excited to see him. I started to get up and go to him, but then I sat right back down because I saw his face and it didn’t look like Daddy’s face at all. My stomach did a big flip like when I’m excited, but I wasn’t excited, just really scared.”

As soon as Zach’s mom saw his dad she started ‘acting crazy’ and had to be admitted to a ward to be sedated. While this was happening Zach’s dad broke the bad news to him that Andy had been killed by the shooter.

Andy is dead, killed in the shooting. Andy is dead. Killed in the shooting.

Now I know why Mommy acted crazy when Daddy came in – because she knew Andy was dead, only I didn’t know. Now I knew, too, but I didn’t start acting crazy, and I didn’t cry and scream like Mommy. I just stood and waited, with the same words doing circles in my head, and it was like my whole body didn’t feel normal. It felt heavy.”

When he is home Zach starts thinking about Andy and how the day before the shooting Andy and his Mommy had argued and then his dad has joined in with the argument and wonders if things will be better and the fighting will stop now Andy is dead.

That night Andy goes to sleep in his own room but wakes up the next morning in his parent’s room and is confused about why until he remembers that right after his dad left his room last night he got scared.

“Pictures of people with blood came in my head and my heart started beating at super speed and my breathing went in and out fast.”

After that he felt like the gunman was coming to get him and started screaming.

Zach goes down to the kitchen the next morning and is relieved to find out that he doesn’t need to go to school that day as he was worried he would have to see Andy’s body dead and covered in blood.

During the course of the day, Zach is confused by the number of people dropping in with food and offering ‘condolences’. He can’t understand why there is a party. He finds it all a bit too loud and confusing and goes to hide in the lounge in front of the TV.

Whilst in there he glimpses some of the news and sees pictures of the 19 people killed in the shooting, including Andy.

“It looked like he was going to jump out of the TV right into the family room and I held my breath and wanted him to jump, but then his picture got small and disappeared. Another got big, and Andy’s silly face was gone.”

Over the next few weeks Zach finds it difficult to deal with the aftermath of the shooting and the feelings it has provoked. His Daddy is increasingly absent with work and his mum has gone on a crusade against the gunman’s parents believing that they should have seen the signs that he was unstable and done more to stop them.

His Mommy and Daddy argue more frequently than before and Zach is disappointed to find that Andy’s absence does nothing to stop the fighting.

He doesn’t understand why his Mommy seems like a different person now, quick to anger and with less time to listen to him. He doesn’t like this new version of her.

He also can’t understand why everyone keeps only saying nice things about Andy and nobody seems to remember that he was naughty a lot of the time and that he was a jerk to Zach.

“It was like everybody was crying and being sad, but not about the actual Andy, just a version of him that wasn’t the right one. It was like no one was saying good bye properly to him. I felt like I wanted to stand up and yell at everyone to stop lying about my brother.”

Zach creates a secret hideaway where he can go to think about Andy and tell him all the things he thinks but can’t say to him. On the wall of the hideaway he creates pictures of his feelings, so he can stop them feeling all jumbled. Then he puts up a picture of him and Andy up on the wall as well.

Only Child is a brilliant account of a tragedy and its aftermath from the point of view of a child. I spent about 90% of the book trying and failing to stop myself from crying.

Only Child is the best book of its kind I have read and the best book I have read so far this year.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

  • Currently 5/5

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