We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin

A Novel

Book - 2006
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The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awry.
"Eva never really wanted to be a mother -- and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklyn. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails."--Cover, pages [4].
Publisher: New York : Harper Perennial, [2006]
Edition: 1st Harper Perennial ed.
Copyright Date: ©2003
ISBN: 9780061124297
Characteristics: 400, 16 pages ; 20 cm.


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Jul 30, 2020


I haven't seen the film, starring Tilda Swinton, but it's what lead me to this book by American-born, English-based author Lionel Shriver, who has gotten herself in trouble several times (see the above article). In "We Need to Talk About Kevin," which is written in the form of letters from a woman to her husband, Shriver violates two of our society's most cherished beliefs: the innocence of children and the love of a mother for her child. As the previous comment noted, it as indeed dark as hell. She is clearly trying to provoke and shock and mostly succeeds. To what end is not always clear, although she has spoken about her interest in unlikable and unsympathetic characters. And in Kevin, a sociopathic teenager, she has created a true monster. The book is well-written but not easy to read, and it could have benefited from some trimming here and there. Honestly, I can't really recommend it, but it is a singularly disturbing book that will unsettle any reader, especially those with children.

May 21, 2020

Well, this was dark as hell. I think I had a general idea of what We Need to Talk About Kevin was about before going into it, but I had no idea the extent to which it would go. It’s formatted interestingly: a woman’s letters to her ex-husband exploring their past together, primarily her relationship with their son. Unfortunately this format didn’t work especially well with the writing style -- it’s simply not believable to think someone would write letters like this -- but ultimately did work extremely well in conveying what it was trying to convey.

There was a lot to say about gender roles and expectations surrounding women, particularly the pressures to have children and how the experience is built up to be so much. There’s also some decent commentary on how women can be treated less like people and more like property once they become pregnant. The main character is clearly following the script she feels she should, rather than building the life she wants to. There’s also plenty of commentary on nature vs nurture that I won’t even begin to get into.

If unlikeable characters are not your deal, you will not like this book. Eva herself is absolutely insufferable: she’s condescending and rude, and even though you root for her to a certain extent and see what she’s seeing, it’s easy to see her husband’s perspective as well. On the flip side, Franklin is a terrible husband. My internal monologue was saying “girl, dump him” the whole time I read this. He’s sexist, controlling, and completely stops seeing his wife as her own person. Please, do not even get me started on Kevin. It’s clear from the outset that he’s not a character we will like.

My biggest issue with this was that the first quarter or so felt dry as hell. While I understand why the slow buildup, I just kept waiting for something to happen. Once the ball gets rolling, though, this is pretty packed with underlying tension and had me waiting on the edge of my seat for what I knew was coming. There were a few moments where I actually brought my hand to my mouth in horror: not because Eva explicitly announced some terrible event, but because she hinted to it so subtly and clearly that it hit even harder. The subsequent descriptions weren’t nearly as impactful as the quiet reveals themselves.

I haven’t seen the movie so I can’t make a comparison, but this is one heavy and gripping piece of literature. I assume there’s no way the subtleties and introspective details of this novel could be translated to film, so I’m expecting a more surface-level story once I do watch the adaptation. Regardless, I definitely recommend this to those who feel they can work through the more dense literary fiction to get to the thriller within.

Mar 24, 2020

One of the few times the movie is better than the book.

ChChlibgirl Nov 22, 2019

Very character driven, with a stream-of-consciousness style of writing; the prose is quite flowery and wordy (too much?) making it hard going at times. Nevertheless, if you can look past this it is an immensely rewarding read, possessing a gripping, intensifying plot with a gut-wrenching twist toward the end. We Need to Talk About Kevin is a disturbing and thought-provoking exploration into nature vs nurture, family bonds and the phenomenon of school shootings.

Oct 29, 2019

Read this for book club, and nobody liked it. It did provide something to talk about, though.

Jul 14, 2019

The story of a family and a school shooting (in that order), told from the POV of the mother of the shooter. So dark and grim, so amazingly well-written. Shriver's gift for language is superlative. Difficult to read on many levels - the subject matter, the dense writing, the unfolding events - but so worth it.

Apr 17, 2019

author recommended by Katherine H

Apr 03, 2019

I read this book to fulfill the goal read A book with no chapters/unusual headings/ uncoventually numbered chapters. it has to be one of the saddest, most creepy books out there. i can't imagine what this mother went through. at times this book, scared me. i pray i never feel this way, or that my kids would never experience.

Dec 18, 2018

Amazing book - very black.... about a school shooting and a disconnection between mother and child at birth, and possibly the consequences of that disconnection.

Nov 18, 2016

Unlike other readers, I was unable to get through it...the self pity was too much to put up with.

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Aug 20, 2015

KShaheed321 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 15 and 14

Apr 27, 2015

lisatofts thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 25 and 99


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