Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

only childThis story is perhaps even more relevant after the events in Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida a few days ago. Yet another horrific mass murder in a school.

I have to admit, a few pages in and the tears came. It’s his voice, his innocent little voice robbed of his childhood as the sound of unimaginable horror, violence and destruction rolls towards him through the school corridors.

His days of worry-free play ripped from him as he cowers in a school closet knowing his world is changing forever, and yet at the same time not knowing how or why.

The reader follows his grief, guilt and confusion in the wake of his personal loss. It’s hard to feel sad when all you remember is the anger. It’s even harder when you don’t understand the concept of loss and death.

I think what really pulls at the heartstrings isn’t the loss per se, but rather the neglect of the child who survives. Mother and father are too engrossed in their own personal problems to pay attention to Zach. Feeding him, noticing his bed-wetting or when he disappears for hours. Zach becomes an invisible victim of the assault.

Barring a few moments when six-year-old Zach sounds and thinks like an adult, Navin does an excellent job of keeping the dialogue and narrative at the level of a six-year-old child throughout the book. The author shows the full range of emotions a family in this situation goes through, especially the anger and the thirst for revenge. A heinous event like this leaves permanent wounds and scarring.

It is an emotional and poignant read. The last few chapters made the tears trickle again, perhaps because the whole idea is painful and makes me feel powerless. On the other hand it’s because Navin captures the essence of this child and the emotional turmoil so well. It’s an upsetting yet extremely beautiful read.

Buy Only Child at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @rhiannonnavin @panmacmillan @MantleBooks


Dear Charlie by N.D. Gomes

dear-charlieThere are plenty of fictional approaches to school shootings and massacres, and quite a few of them are really good.What makes Dear Charlie an interesting read is the fact it is written from a different perspective. Instead of the voice of the victims or the survivors, it’s the voice of the killer’s family.

In general they tend to be absolutely slated and portrayed in an overwhelmingly negative light by the media, the world and the people around them. In the majority of cases they are just as shocked by the actions of their children, siblings, grandchildren or family members, as every other person. Tragically they are also often the first victims in these kind of situations.

Sam has gone from being the younger brother of the artistic and supposedly happy Charlie, to the brother of a killer. His mother and father are now the parents of a killer. People look to them for answers and they also blame all three of them.

Pair those emotions, projected on them by others, with their own feelings of guilt, inadequacy and shame, and it’s no wonder they all begin to fall apart. To top it all off both Sam and his mother have to contend with the reactions of the people they interact with on a daily basis. Sam suffers terribly at the hands of his cruel peers.

In a way you can almost see how someone could be pushed to breaking point, although it does take a specific combination of events, triggers, characteristics and perhaps even mental health issues for a mass-killer to emerge and act upon their dark fantasies.

I enjoyed the way Gomes shows the disintegration and isolation of the family unit, the difficulty Sam experiences and his search for answers, all in equal measure. The reader experiences the confusion and the constant question of why, and of course the realisation that sometimes you don’t get the answers you need or want.

It was almost a perfect read except for a slight deviation into an en vogue YA narrative towards the end. Up to that point Gomes keeps it brutally realistic and void of any superfluous information, scenes and emotions. It is a really good read.

Buy Dear Charlie at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijamp

this is where.jpgI think it would have put things into a clearer perspective if some of the info from the last page had been at the beginning, then again perhaps that was intentional. I am talking specifically about the duration of the event.

Time seems to wander by in drip drop moments throughout the story, so much so that I started to wonder why no-one was rushing to their aid.

Surely the world outside isn’t ignoring the tragedy unfolding in the high school?

Then in the information about the book and promotion of said book it states a specific time-frame, 54 minutes, and it all made much more sense. So I wondered why the time-frame wasn’t mentioned as part of the foreword.

Perhaps the author wants the reader to comprehend how time stands still during such an event. Each second and minute seems like an eternity. It also puts the emphasis on how quickly such a tragedy can occur. Lives are lost within mere seconds. Time cannot be stopped nor can it be wound back.

The beginning was a little confusing. Hopping from one person to the other seemed a little arbitrary, until the doors closed on the auditorium.

One thing these events always have in common in hindsight is the why. Why did he or they do it? Why my child, son, daughter or spouse and not someone else? Were there any signs? Could someone have stopped it?

Unfortunately none of us possess the power of being able to see into the future. All we can do is be vigilante and try to pick up on the subtle and not so subtle signs. It is hard to comprehend the kind of anger that festers deep inside and takes over someone, who ends up killing innocent, men, women and children.

Tyler isn’t the nice boy next door. He is a troubled young man, with violent tendencies and a penchant for abusing others. Perhaps not such a surprise that he is capable of killing.

It is a powerful story, a frightening one and a nightmare for every parent. There isn’t really a moral to the story, but rather a shock of reality for readers. It is more a story about loyalty, love and compassion for others. In times of great fear and need we humans can do the one thing nobody would ever expect us to do. To protect and save others. A selfless and yet such a brave act.

Nijkamp is definitely an author to watch out for.

Buy This is Where it Ends at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.