Title: Only Child
Author: Rhiannon Navin
Narrator: Kivlighan De Montebello
First grader Zach Taylor’s school is the latest to be flocked by reporters and thrown into the headlines for the most devastating reason: it has been added to the long list of school shootings in the United States. Told from the perspective of a six-year-old boy facing trauma and loss, Only Child could easily and heartbreakingly pass as non-fiction.
Crammed in a coat closet that smells like pee and his teacher’s coffee breath, six-year-old Zach and his classmates listen to gunshots firing through the halls of their school. A gunman entered the building, taking 19 young lives and forever changing the once peaceful community and Taylor family. Growing up far faster than any child should, Zach is a stunning example of the wisdom, optimism, and forgiveness of children that is so often forgotten as we age.
In the aftermath of tragedy, the Taylor family struggles to cope. Zach’s mother focuses on pursuing justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them accountable for the pain their son caused, despite backlash from the community, while his father is more distant than ever. As Zach’s world begins to crumble around him, he loses himself in a magical world of books and art that help lead him, and the adults in his life, on a path of healing and forgiveness.
The author’s ability to storytell from the perspective of a six-year-old boy is striking. Rhiannon Navin dug so deep in subtle, aching ways that I found myself pausing it for the sake of gathering myself. What made the story even more compelling was the narration by young actor Kivlighan De Montebello, who perfectly portrays Zach and made me even more emotionally invested in the story. While I always prefer listening to audiobooks over print, I strongly encourage anyone interested in Only Child to listen to it in audio in order to get the most powerful experience.