Monday 5 March 2018

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin @rhiannonnavin #BlogTour @MantleBooks #OnlyChild

We went to school that Tuesday like normal.
Not all of us came home . . .
Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, six-year-old Zach can hear shots ringing through the corridors of his school. A gunman has entered the building and, in a matter of minutes, will have taken nineteen lives.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the close knit community and its families are devastated. Everyone deals with the tragedy differently. Zach's father absents himself; his mother pursues a quest for justice -- while Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and drawing.
Ultimately though, it is Zach who will show the adults in his life the way forward -- as, sometimes, only a child can.

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin is published by Mantle Books and is the author's debut novel. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.

Only Child has such a powerful and explosive opening chapter. This author certainly can set a scene very well; the reader feels the fear of the characters as they huddle in a classroom closet and listen to the POP POP POP of gunfire echoing through the school corridors.

The subject matter of Only Child is both relevant and disturbing. I read this just after the latest school shooting in the US, and the images from the TV news haunted me throughout the book.

Rhiannon Navin tells the story using the voice of six-year-old Zach who is one of the pupils hidden away with his teacher Miss Russell. She does this beautifully, and whilst I don't know many six-year-olds, I am sure that Zach's thoughts and reasonings are perfectly done. Zach is frightened, and upset, yet he doesn't only concentrate on what is happening beyond the closed door of the closet, he also notices the smells and the sounds, and the author continues this theme throughout the story.

Who can imagine how it feels to live through the aftermath of a school shooting? Where nineteen people are killed, just feet away from you? I guess that everyone deals with it in different ways and this author has very cleverly incorporated many ways of dealing with grief. Zach himself, his parents and the wider community, all have their own ways of coping.

There is no doubt that Rhiannon Navin is a talented, thoughtful author and Only Child is an emotionally charged read. Zach's voice is realistic; his imaginings are beautiful and his sense of loss and guilt are expertly portrayed. There were times though that I wanted to move the story along just a little more quickly. As an adult reader, there were certain things that were apparent to me, but that Zach didn't understand properly. Whilst I understand this, I did find it quite frustrating at times; knowing things that Zach didn't realise, and wanting to know more from the adult perspective.

Only Child is an ambitious and intelligent novel that explores both the innocence and the optimism of a child. The reader is treated to language that is emotionally charged and quite compelling at times.

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, two cats, and one dog.
Only Child is her first novel.
You can follow Rhiannon on Twitter @rhiannonnavin and visit her website. You’ll also find Rhiannon on Facebook and Goodreads.

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