What I Thought:
Many years ago I read a book called Room by Emma Donaghue and fell in love with a small boy. A few weeks ago I read Only Child and fell in love with a different little boy. There was a time when I couldn’t read books narrated by children, as I would find myself cringing at anything that didn’t feel authentic. Room changed that, and now I have a new hero that goes by the name of Zach.
The book opens with Zach and some of his classmates hiding in a cupboard with their teacher as a gunman runs rampage through their school. Zach continues with his story in the aftermath of the massacre as he, his family and the community try to make some sort of sense of the events of that day. Zach is a wonderful character: perceptive, sensitive and very engaging. Despite narrating the chaos and confusion felt by himself and those around him, it was a pleasure to be in his company as he navigated his own unfamiliar emotions and witnessed the alien ones of those closest to him. Being narrated by a child gives the story the wide-eyed, innocent view of the world that only a child could which adds to the heartbreak in a way that a cynical or jaded adult wouldn’t be able to.
This is such an incredibly powerful book and not just because of the subject matter. I am stunned that this is the author’s debut novel as it is written with the assuredness and keen eye of someone who has many more books under her belt. Only Child wrecked me. Several times. My heart broke for the characters in this book. And despite the subject matter, nothing felt gratuitous or shoe-horned in for dramatic effect which is why I’m sure it had such the impact that it did.
This book is a triumph. It crushes you and lifts you back up, it breaks your heart but leaves you optimistic, it holds a mirror up to society and forces you to look beneath the surface at what’s really going on. It will be a long time before I forget Zach and his family. Zach is a special boy and this is a special book – one which I cannot recommend highly enough.
NB/ Thank you to Jess for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. I read the book voluntarily and opinions are my own. For other reviews of this book, please head over to these other fantastic blogs: