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Only Child
Cover of Only Child
Only Child
A novel
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"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...
"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...
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Description-

  • "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.

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    [1]

    The Day the Gunman Came

    The thing I later remembered the most about the day the gunman came was my teacher Miss Russell's breath. It was hot and smelled like coffee. The closet was dark except for a little light that was coming in through the crack of the door that Miss Russell was holding shut from inside. There was no door handle on the inside, only a loose metal piece, and she pulled it in with her thumb and pointer finger.

    "Be completely still, Zach," she whispered. "Don't move."

    I didn't. Even though I was sitting on my left foot and it was giving me pins and needles and it hurt a lot.

    Miss Russell's coffee breath touched my cheek when she talked, and it bothered me a little. Her fingers were shaking on the metal piece. She had to talk to Evangeline and David and Emma a lot behind me in the closet, because they were crying and were not being completely still.

    "I'm here with you guys," Miss Russell said. "I'm protecting you. Shhhhhhh, please be quiet." We kept hearing the POP sounds outside. And screaming.

    POP POP POP

    It sounded a lot like the sounds from the Star Wars game I sometimes play on the Xbox.

    POP POP POP

    Always three pops and then quiet again. Quiet or screaming. Miss Russell did little jumps when the POP sounds came and her whispering got faster. "Don't make a sound!" Evangeline made hiccupping sounds.

    POP Hick POP Hick POP Hick

    I think someone peed in their underwear, because it smelled like that in the closet. Like Miss Russell's breath and pee, and like the jackets that were still wet from when it rained at recess. "Not too much to play outside," Mrs. Colaris said. "What, are we made of sugar?" The rain didn't bother us. We played soccer and cops and bad guys, and our hair and jackets got wet. I tried to turn and put my hand up and touch the jackets to see if they were still very wet.

    "Don't move," Miss Russell whispered to me. She switched hands to hold the door closed, and her bracelets made jingling sounds. Miss Russell always wears a lot of bracelets on her right arm. Some have little things called charms hanging off them that remind her of special things, and when she goes on vacation she always gets a new charm to remember it. When we started first grade, she showed us all her charms and told us where she got them from. Her new one that she got on the summer break was a boat. It's like a tiny version of the boat she went on to go really close to a huge waterfall called Niagara Falls, and that's in Canada.

    My left foot really started to hurt a lot, and I tried to pull it out only a little so Miss Russell wouldn't notice.

    We just came in from recess and put our jackets in the closet, then math books out, when the POP sounds started. At first we didn't hear them loud—they were like all the way down the hallway in the front where Charlie's desk is. When parents come to pick you up before dismissal or at the nurse's office, they always stop at Charlie's desk and write down their name and show their driver's license and get a tag that says visitor on a red string, and they have to wear it around their neck.

    Charlie is the security guy at McKinley, and he's been here for thirty years. When I was in kindergarten, last year, we had a big party in the auditorium to celebrate his thirty years. Even a lot of parents came because he was the security guy already when they were kids and went to McKinley, like Mommy. Charlie said he didn't need a party. "I already know everyone loves me," he said, and laughed his funny laugh. But he got a party anyway, and I thought he looked happy about it. He put up all the artwork we made for him for the party around his...

About the Author-

  • RHIANNON NAVIN grew up in Bremen, Germany, in a family of book-crazy women. Her career in advertising brought her to New York City, where she worked for several large agencies before becoming a full-time mother and writer. She now lives outside of New York City with her husband, three children, and two cats. This is her first novel.

Reviews-

  • Library Journal

    September 15, 2017

    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, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 27, 2017
    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.

  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2017
    The aftermath of a school shooting, told from the point of view of a first-grader who hid with his class in a closet while his 10-year-old brother and 18 others were massacred."The thing I later remembered the most about the day the gunman came was my teacher Miss Russell's breath. It was hot and smelled like coffee....POP POP POP. It sounded a lot like the sounds from the Star Wars game I sometimes play on the Xbox." Like Emma Donoghue's Room, Navin's debut takes the risk of narrating a gruesome modern tragedy in the voice of a very young player. At 6, Zach Taylor comes only slowly to understand what has happened that day at school. He is with his mother at the hospital waiting to see if his brother, Andy, is among the wounded when his father arrives. "Daddy's face was like a grayish color, and his mouth looked all funny, with his lower lip pulled down so I could see his teeth....First Mommy's eyes got really big, and then her whole self started shaking and she started acting crazy. She yelled, 'Jim? Oh my God, no no no no no no no no no!'" Because Andy had oppositional defiant disorder and was routinely unkind to him, Zach wonders at first if perhaps his death will be an improvement. During what he perceives as the "party" that goes on at his house after the massacre, he sequesters himself in his brother's closet and imagines life as an only child. "Like they could both come to my piano recitals and they could both stay for the whole time." Soon he sees just how wrong he is, as every cherished ritual of his life is pitched overboard, his mother changes into someone he doesn't know, and he is tormented by nightmares and uncontrollable rages. Since his parents are preoccupied to the point of cruelty and don't get him professional help, he is on his own in figuring out how to cope. His touching tactics include assigning colors to his feelings and making paintings of them and studying the "secrets of happiness" purveyed in the Magic Treehouse series. Seems like a lot of people, and not just the ones in this novel, need to reread those books.A powerful exercise in empathy and perspective.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    May 1, 2018

    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, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    January 1, 2018
    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.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

  • Gina Mei, Shondaland.com "It's hard to imagine a more timely novel than Only Child. Told from the perspective of a 6-year-old boy, Zach Taylor . . . the book is a heartbreaking exploration of grief, family, and resilience in the face of immeasurable tragedy [and] a story that feels more fact than fiction."
  • Marie Claire "This emotional tale . . . sinks its hooks into you from the very first sentence and is a captivating exploration of a family's struggle to knit itself together after an act of violence."
  • Harlan Coben "Congrats to Rhiannon Navin--this is an outstanding debut."
  • Publishers Weekly "An astonishing debut novel."
  • Library Journal "One of the big debuts of next year."
  • Kirkus Reviews
    "A powerful exercise in empathy and perspective."

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