The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

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The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: This is one of those stories that I will bother my friends about until they finally listen to me and go and read it! Unusual and heart-warming, I really enjoyed it!
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 320 Date: April 2016
Publisher: Headline Review
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781472228352

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I do love it when I read a book that stays with me after I've finished reading. This was one of those books, rootling its way a little more into my heart each time I picked it up to read. It's the story, mostly of Miss Ona Vitkus, a one hundred and four year old lady who has a young boy scout come over to help her with jobs and how he ultimately ends up changing her life, and not at all in the way you might imagine since before we even begin the story the boy is dead.

Although we never actually get to know the young boy's name, we 'meet' him through the book as the story weaves back and forth between different time periods. Often that's the sort of writing device that sets alarm bells ringing for me, but it is beautifully done in this story as I never felt lost, and I kept track throughout of what was happening. We see, through the story, that the boy is somewhere on the autistic spectrum, though he is undiagnosed. His way of looking at the world, however, is what ends up bringing change into his father and mother's lives, as well as that of Ona herself. He brings her back to life in a way that probably no-one else could have, and then when the boy's father, Quinn, takes on the jobs that his son had promised to do for Ona, Quinn develops his own unique relationship with this elderly, sparky lady.

Which brings me to one of the things I love most about this book: Ona. She's a delightful character. I love her outspokenness, how fierce she is. There is no cowering little old lady here, but a woman who knows her own mind, and who handles the boy, and pretty much everyone else involved, beautifully. Her history is fascinating throughout, and I was left guessing as to what was happening with the reemergence of her native language, and just where her story was going. I thought she was wonderful, and I very much wanted to be her friend by the end of the story.

Quinn, the boy's father, is also a very well drawn character. He comes with flaws, yet they are not so dreadful that you can't forgive him for them. He does some dreadful things, but I never hated him for it, perhaps because his story seems believable, and understandable. The growing relationship he has with Ona is beautiful to behold, and I found it very moving, especially towards the end of the book. Belle, the boy's mother, I struggled with a little more. She didn't feel quite so well depicted as Ona and Quinn, and I wasn't entirely sure I agreed with her final life choices. But she still has some interesting moments, and her grief for her son rings true in a very painful and realistic way.

The unnamed boy is passionate about lists, and there are lists of world record holders throughout the book. Whilst this may clunk a little for some readers, I personally found it fascinating, and somehow I felt these lists helped to bring the boy to life. There are also a series of recorded interviews through the book, between the boy and Ona, although we only get to 'hear' Ona's responses and we're left to imagine the boy's voice for ourselves. I found these particularly clever, since you can, with very little prompting, imagine the other half of their conversation, and with that imagining you're able to flesh out the boy's character entirely from your own head! All of these writing gimmicks could have very easily fallen flat, and yet they work together really well, creating a wonderfully warm, engaging story.

It was interesting to me how a book that has death and grief as it's focus manages to remain so positive and uplifting. It is a story with a journey, both physical and metaphorical, and it is a story with heart. I was keeping my fingers crossed for Quinn all the way through that these events would change his world for the better, and I felt that the ending is handled brilliantly, and left me with a big smile on my face. Even several days after finishing, the characters are still hanging around in my head, and I feel sad that I don't have just a few more pages left to read. This is a well written, moving and enjoyable story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Further reading suggestion: For another brilliant heart-warming read I would recommend The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

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Buy The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood at


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