Do you enjoy heartwarming reads with quirky characters? Do I have the book for you!
Author: Monica Wood
Version: eBook & Audiobook
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don’t they teach you anything at school?
So says 104-year-old Ona to the 11-year-old boy who’s been sent to help her out every Saturday morning. As he refills the bird feeders and tidies the garden shed, Ona tells him about her long life, from first love to second chances. Soon she’s confessing secrets she has kept hidden for decades…
First off, I would encourage you NOT to read any reviews for this one and to only read the synopsis that I included above, which I’ve removed all spoilers from. The other descriptions found elsewhere, even on the book cover itself, includes a huge spoiler in my opinion. I actually think going into this book not knowing much only enhances the plot. It is going to be quite difficult to write this review without revealing this a particular detail in the plot, but I shall do my best!
I know this cover is deceiving, when I first saw it, I assumed it was a middle grade book, but it is not. This is a beautiful adult contemporary book about life.
“The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don’t they teach you anything at school?”
If you have followed me for a while, you may know that I have a soft spot for the eccentric characters. Wood gave me not one, but TWO new characters to love in Ona and the boy. Despite the title, this book is very much about an 104 year-old Lithuanian immigrant named Ona Vitkus. Ona is spunky, funny, insightful, and yet still very flawed. By the end of this book, Ona learns that you are never too old for a new beginning. I really enjoyed how Wood chose to reveal details of Ona’s life throughout the course of the book. We get to know Ona slowly as the boy interviews her for a school project.
I have a soft spot for the boy. I call him “the boy” because we never do learn his name… intrigued? You should be. The boy has a passion for numbers, facts, and Guinness world records. I loved his inquisitiveness, his quirks, and his heart of gold.
*Highlight to view spoiler ⇒ It is implied that the boy could have something more going on, but we never do find out. I think he may have fallen somewhere on the Autism Spectrum, or possibly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder . ⇐
I absolutely adored the relationship between Ona and the boy. Unlikely friendships are my favorite kind of pairings. I think the best part of this duo was that they both didn’t really realize how much they both needed a friend before they met. They both got something different out of their odd relationship: Ona’s thirst for life was restored, and the boy had a goal to work towards (a Guinness world record).
I think Monica Wood wove this story together very cleverly. The story alternates between past and present, revealing things about Ona and the boy slowly over the course of the book, and weaving their story together with the storyline in the present, which is more about the boy’s parents: Quinn & Belle. Quinn was a very interesting & complex character in particular. Though I do not agree with many of the decisions Quinn made over the course of his life (his role as a Father in particular), but I did feel like his character added a lot to the story. There are multiple story lines going on within these pages, thus multiple themes: friendship, loss, grieving, forgiveness, aging, regret, etc.
Be prepared for a roller coaster ride of emotions while reading The One-in-a-Million Boy. This book made me smile, made me laugh, and also brought me to tears. The ending in particular, broke my heart. I bawled like a baby. As you can probably infer from my review, this is a very character driven story. The pacing is on the slower side, as this is more of a character analysis, but I was always engaged with the story and the characters.
I really don’t understand how this book has not received more attention? It has a 4.15 star rating on Goodreads with over 8,600 ratings… Trust me people, go pick this book up! You won’t be sorry.
The audiobook, in my opinion, was wonderfully done. The narrator, Chris Ciulla, did a wonderful job with all the different characters, Ona (and her Lithuanian accent) in particular. It was a very believable performance.
Other Book Recommendations:
» A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood is a must read for fans of Fredrik Backman. For those of you who have read A Man Called Ove and enjoyed it, this book had a similar feel to me. Ona isn’t a curmudgeon, however she can be set in her ways and headstrong. Not going to lie, I was pairing Ove and Ona together in my mind while reading this book. They would be perfect for each other 🙂