This 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.
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Follow @rhiannonnavin @panmacmillan @MantleBooks