ARC Reviews, Book Reviews, Contemporary

Book Review: The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood


Do you enjoy heartwarming reads with quirky characters?  Do I have the book for you!



Author:  Monica Wood

Genre: Contemporary

Version:  eBook & Audiobook

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Source:  NetGalley

AmazonGoodreadsBook Website

Book Synopsis:

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…


My Thoughts:

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 .
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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 storyThe 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.


My Rating:

5-Star Rating System

*Big thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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 🙂


About the Author:

Monica Wood.jpgMonica Wood is the author of four works of fiction, most recently Any Bitter Thing, which spent 21 weeks on the American Booksellers Association extended bestseller list and was named a Book Sense Top Ten pick. Her other fiction includes Ernie’s Ark and My Only Story, a finalist for the Kate Chopin Award.


20 thoughts on “Book Review: The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood”

  1. One in a million boy sounds very intriguing. I took your advice and did not read the whole post. I did look through the key words you have highlighted. It sounds like a fabulous book on friendship. I keep thinking what can a 104year old person and a small boy possibly talk about?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s it! I really have to find a way to read this book soon, or at least next month… Especially after you mentioned Fredrik Backman and A Man Called Ove. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while, but you’ve convinced me. Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ona was born in Lithuania, but immigrated to the U.S. with her parents as a young child. It is actually interesting because Ona doesn’t remember much about her old country, and her parents never taught her the language as they wanted her to acclimate to the new culture and language, but over the course of the book, she gets little memories and language from “the old country.”


  3. Oh my goodness this review has me itching to get my hands on this book already. I am going to have to fight the urge to check other reviews or the full synopsis! I just might have to add a nother book to my order. I love emotionally charged, character driven stories! Very compelling Amanda 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! Do NOT read other reviews or book descriptions! Or even the book description that’s on the actual book!!! There is a huge spoiler! I went in NOT knowing this particular detail, and it made the reading experience that much more enjoyable. Just trust me on this one 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so glad you did this review, Amanda! I also loved The One-in-a-Million Boy and you’re so right that it never got the attention that it deserved. Such a unique premise and such a heartwarming story. Truly a great book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad to find someone who has read and loved this book as much as I did!!! Yes definitely an underrated book. I think as more and more people give it a go, it will continue to slowly pick up some speed.


    1. I think because I went into this book NOT knowing this particular detail, it definitely threw me off guard. I was completely side swiped, but I think it added an emotional aspect that I wouldn’t have gotten had I previously known…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Fantastic review! I haven’t heard of this one before, so I’ll have to check it out on Goodreads and add it to my TBR. I also haven’t read anything by Frederik Backman but have heard many people say they enjoy his books. I’ll be reading those, too!!


  6. Pingback: April 2017 Wrap-Up

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