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We Need to Talk About Kevin

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4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  101,294 Ratings  ·  10,731 Reviews
Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, Kevin Khatchadourian kills seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher. He is visited in prison by his mother, Eva, who narrates in a series of letters to her estranged husband, Franklin, the story of Kevin's upbringing. For this powerful, shocking novel, Lionel Shriver was awarded the Orange Prize for ...more
Paperback, 5-Star Edition (US / UK), 468 pages
Published May 9th 2006 by Serpent's Tail (first published 2003)
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Erin Toland
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
R She was a parent of one of the other kids in the detention center. There was no reveal to who she was, she was just a woman in the same situation as…moreShe was a parent of one of the other kids in the detention center. There was no reveal to who she was, she was just a woman in the same situation as Eva. Gave us for the first time in 166 pages a sense that Eva is just a mother who could just be talking to another mother across a physician's waiting room about how her son caught the flu as well. And they gave us someone who understood Eva, someone in the same position as her. If any of us readers had miraculously made their decision on who to blame (Eva or Kevin) and had pointed Eva with the guilty stick at that point in the book then surely that confrontation with Loretta Greenleaf would had made them back away, slowly.
To answer your question that was all that Loretta was to Eva, a person who understood her and reminded us that they were just mothers in a shitty situation. There is nothing more to Loretta Greenleaf in the novel, you didn't miss anything at all. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Nandakishore Varma
I am a little apprehensive as to how I should begin this review: there are so many things to talk about.

First of all, I consider this to be truly a great work of literature, not simply "fiction". As a great writer of my native language said: "The real story is on the unwritten pages"; that is, it is the gaps, the pauses and the undercurrents between the characters (which the reader is forced to complete or imagine) which is the mark of great literature. This is one hundred percent correct as far
...more
Emily May
Overwritten. Arduous. Boring.

Seeing as We Need to Talk About Kevin is famous for being such a gritty, disturbing read, I always expected to love it in a sick, twisted kind of way. Unfortunately, it is not what I expected at all. I had to force myself through one overstuffed sentence after another, only to be left feeling drained and dissatisfied.

I knew I was in for a paint-dryingly slow read almost immediately. Every sentence is padded out with big words and details that are clearly there to imp
...more
Courtney Stanton
Jan 13, 2014 Courtney Stanton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women contemplating having children
The pull-quote on the cover of the edition I read suggests that it's impossible to put this book down. That's almost entirely false. Out of the book's 400 pages, the first 300 were kind of like pulling teeth. Creepy, maternal teeth. The last 100 pages, however, were actually and physically impossible to look away from, and the brisk pace of the climax, after so. many. pages. of buildup, actually created a really wonderful, complete story that was very satisfying and which (god help me) made me ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 05, 2013 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents and those who blame them
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Veekee
This book is just devastating ... and devastatingly good. I've just finished it, and had a little cry on the balcony in the bright sunshine, thinking about my mom and motherhood and blame, self-recrimination, guilt and remorse and parental love and the painfully ambiguous, sometimes tortured complexity of it all.

And that is underselling it.

Suffice for now to say, you might not enjoy this if:

- You believe that a lack of maternal instinct or feeling is a character flaw or a moral failing;
- You com
...more
Kiersten
Jan 09, 2014 Kiersten rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did not like this book. Honestly, what was to like about it? The topic is horrifying, the characters are hateful (and not just the characters that commit mass murders) and the writing style is the worst of all.

From the first page I was SO irritated by the writing. I'll bet that the first purchase Ms. Shriver made after finding a publisher for this book was a new thesaurus. I'm positive that hers was absolutely worn out. It was like, "Hi! Let's see how fancy we can sound!" Especially for a boo
...more
Fabian
Oct 26, 2016 Fabian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A novel that's elegant & overly articulate. So much dexterity is on display here ("Damn what an amazing writer" is a perpetual thought while reading this), with a prose made by some wizard's alchemy, a talent-filled intuition, and a distinct view that's brutal & uncomfortably honest. Shriver outshines even Flaubert himself: THIS is the core of feminism, of individualism (move over Madame Bovary... you cared more for the idea of love than anything else, anyway, and never gave a hoot about ...more
Jenny
Sep 28, 2014 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
Some readers really don't like this book and I'm not entirely sure why.

Maybe it's because I'm not a mother and I did find it believable that Eva doesn't love her son completely.

Maybe it's because I enjoy the big words that were used in the letters and found it believable that she would write this way.

Maybe I'm a sucker for good endings and this one ended with a bang.

I think the writing was superb and despite it being a hard book to read (the incident with the maps was particularly brutal), it w
...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Apr 08, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Hooked by Title and Cover
This book should be sold at the pharmaceutical counter right next to birth control pills, I can’t think of a better deterrent for unwanted pregnancy. It did a great job of confirming a few truisms, maternal instincts are not a given, some children are just born bad, and the worst mistake a couple can make is to allow a child to divide them. It’s the story of Kevin, a lethal mix of nature and poor nurturing resulting in the child from hell. Yet it’s the character of his mother Eva that I found ...more
Becky
I've started this review 6 times now, and each time, I've deleted it because it doesn't quite convey the right thing. I think the problem is that I'm not sure just what that thing is. But one thing I do know is that I love books that make me feel like this... that "I don't know what I need to say but I need to say something, to talk about this with someone because this book won't keep quiet in my mind" feeling.

I guess it's lucky that this was chosen for our latest group read then, because I fil
...more
Petra X
May 20, 2016 Petra X rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
At first, this book seems to be about a mass-murdering Columbine-style kid and whether or not he was born that way or his mother, who didn't love him, made him that way. Nature v nurture. Old.

Or perhaps it's the lonely ramblings of a woman who has nothing left except guilt, and it's only guilt and anything that feeds it that sustains her. Like a drug addict she gets her fix from visiting her son, then the rush, the letters, free-flowing words, all the guilt tumbling almost joyously out, no detai
...more
Nicola
I don't even know where to start with this one. The book was basically a whole load of nothing. It's the absolute definition of ''trying too hard.'' I don't care how many big words Shriver knows the meaning of. Throwing them in so often only made for muddled, disjointed, boring to read sentences.

There's no story. We know from the beginning that Kevin has shot a bunch of students dead, and then Eva goes on to tell random, often exaggerated stories from his childhood leading up to the shooting.

T
...more
Scarlet
---Immediate reaction after reading---

I’m so horrified that I feel sick, and I’m nearly crying, not because of Kevin but for Kevin, and I don’t know who to blame anymore, or what to feel, or what to think. I only know that this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read, and in all likelihood, will ever read.

How can I so deeply love a book that is this agonisingly ugly??


---Full review---

I knew before I started that reading this was going to be hard. We Need to Talk about Kevin is listed as one of th
...more
Jessica
Dec 17, 2009 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book attacked my brain like a virus. The character of Kevin, the teenage murderer whose mom narrates the epistolary novel, was so disturbing and harrowingly well-drawn, that I think it caused some sort of chemical reaction in my brain. He gave me nightmares. I swear whenever I picked up the book gray clouds covered the sun.

In a series of letters to her estranged husband, narrator Eva dissects her family's life, from the decision to have a child to the day her son locked 9 classmates and a t
...more
Carol
A disturbing and gruesome epistolary novel that is not an easy read. It's like one of those horror movies where you know there is a monster with a BIG AX behind the door and still the actor moves forward. I kept thinking, NO! DO NOT HAVE ANOTHER BABY, DO NOT BUY A PET, AND FOR HEAVENS SAKE, DO NOT LET KEVIN BABYSIT!

Not sure if I would recommend this book as it is NOT an enjoyable read or a book I would read again, but despite the sometimes drawn out 400 pages, I just had to keep reading to find

...more
Lain
Dec 24, 2013 Lain rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to review this book when I am so appalled at what it represents. I appreciate the author's attempt to get into the whys and wherefores of teenage mass murderers, but I'm not sure the book deserves the attention it's gotten. While it definitely presents the story behind one such (fictional) criminal, I don't believe that Kevin's story is every school shooter's story.

I think the relationship between mother and son (a son trying desperately to get a reaction from a mother who not only wa
...more
Paul Bryant
Jan 06, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
I give this one a couple of meager points for addressing the difficult subject I realise I'm supposed to love my own child but actually I don't because frankly he's a weirdo and always with the backchat, if he fell in a cementmixer how much better would my life be, a lot, and would the world be any the worse, no.

Doris Lessing addressed the topic also in her weedy novel The Fifth Child. It's a big taboo, and all that.

For my money though, bypass these poor excuses and go straight to nettyflix or
...more
Libby
Feb 02, 2008 Libby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: darlings, 2008-hits
It's official: I'm in love with Lionel Shriver. First of all, she writes novels that should be gimmicky, but are not. In The Post-Birthday World she employs a doubled narrative that splits in two at its heroine's defining moment of choice/will/agency, what have you. In We Have to Talk About Kevin she goes for the epistolary form. But in both cases, the "device" is perfectly matched to the content, like an igloo (form follows function y'all). The meaning of the novel is bound to its form. Secon ...more
Addie
Jan 12, 2009 Addie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gandhi, he's the only person I can think of with enough patience
Jesus christ this book was a waste of time.

I bought it with high hopes. Boy was I wrong. I don’t even know where to begin.

Basically every character in this book is an intolerable asshole. You're supposed to sympathize with them, but it's impossible because they are all such horrible people. The whole escapade turns in to a frustratingly unsatisfying schaudenfraud.
Chapter after chapter contains nothing but the characters going OUT OF THEIR WAY to make you hate them. I hope this was intentional b
...more
Trudi

It is now abundantly clear to me why this novel is such a popular selection for book clubs the world over -- it is a family saga that features a sordid tragedy, filled with abhorrent, compelling, wretched, titillating detail. It is a book meant to conquer and divide its readers, elicit strong emotion, a take-no-prisoners approach that leaves you anything but detached and unmoved. I can't imagine anyone coming to the end of this ordeal (for it is an ordeal) and not have some opinion, if not a ple
...more
B the BookAddict
Sep 12, 2015 B the BookAddict rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: friends
Shelves: fiction

In two of her novels, Shriver is not afraid to write about subjects which stick in the craw of most American's today. In her 2010 novel, So Much for That she tackled to American health care system and in 2003 in We Need to Talk About Kevin, it was school shootings.

The story consists of Eva Khatchadourian's letters to her husband Franklin; they start from twelve months after their son Kevin has done the unthinkable and killed seven classmates, one teacher and a cafeteria worker. Eva is looking b
...more
Aurora
Nov 28, 2016 Aurora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wishlist
Kim
Aug 16, 2012 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book scared the living crap out of me. (living crap? Really? Is there another kind? I mean, is it dead when it’s out of you? I’m sorry… not getting it)

I kind of sort of knew the gist of the book. It was a rubbernecker… something to do with a deviant child, national tragedy, bandwagon message but I was not expecting this. It is so well written, so proper in its delivery that it takes awhile to warm up to the protagonist as she writes these letters to her husband post trauma or as she calls i
...more
Carol
Aug 06, 2016 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-audible
Ordinary People spawn Rosemary's Baby! What a toxic brew of utterly abhorrent characters. Riveting, disturbing and unputdownable; but, very well written.
Deborah Markus
Apr 27, 2015 Deborah Markus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The short review: HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS NOBODY TOLD ME THERE'D BE EYEBALL STUFF I HATE EYEBALL STUFF THIS BOOK IS SCARY AS &$#%! HOW DO I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH?

The details: A few weeks ago, a GR friend of mine reviewed a book about women who are regretlessly childless. (Yes, my spellchecker just told me "regretlessly" isn't a word. It is now.) A troll swaggered over to the comment section and mansplained that he knows plenty of women who wish they'd had kids when they had the chance, so all us
...more
sweet jane
Feb 04, 2016 sweet jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Η Ίβα είναι μια επιτυχημένη επαγγελματίας, ενθουσιασμένη με την δουλειά της και βαθιά ερωτευμένη με τον άνδρα της. Τα χρόνια περνάνε και, πες από περιέργεια πες από ενδόμυχη πίεση του άγραφου νόμου της κοινωνίας περί διαιώνισης του είδους, μένει έγκυος. Ούτε η περίοδος της εγκυμοσύνης ούτε και τα χρόνια τα οποία ακολούθησαν αυτή είναι ρόδινα. Ο Κέβιν, ο γιός της, μεγαλώνει στα πούπουλα με έναν πατέρα που τον λατρεύει και μια μάνα που βλέπει το κενό μέσα του. Είναι περίεργος, όχι με τον τρόπο ...more
Char
Dec 02, 2014 Char rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It's been a couple of years now since I read this book; which I find to be amazing because I still think about this novel all the time.

It has spurred so many conversations regarding nature vs. nurture, I couldn't even count them all.

One thing I did learn from this tale was that I could absolutely LOVE a book without liking any of the characters in it. Previously, I didn't think that was possible. Now I know that it is.

I highly recommend this story to horror fans, especially those that love psych
...more
Terry
Jun 05, 2008 Terry rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book made me feel...icky. I had heard many good things about it for years, since the hardcover was first released, and I was looking forward to reading it. It literally made me feel like I needed to take a purifying shower afterwards. I did not even want to have the book in my bedroom!

I was also shocked to find out it is/was considered by some reviewers to be a "feminist" book. Um, what? I mean, okay, the female main character (I can't even bring myself to call her a protagonist) is ambival
...more
Marvin
Feb 11, 2012 Marvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I do not think I alternately hated and loved a book so much since American Psycho. It is a roller coaster of a novel that doesn't flinch at the uncomfortable aspects of its story. Many reviewers dismiss the characters, especially Kevin and his mother, as unlikable. I think the author successfully portrayed them as real and, if not understandable, at least mirroring portions of our own human frailties and personalities. Kevin is the bigger puzzle and is meant to be. He kills a number of his schoo ...more
Nasia
Dec 03, 2016 Nasia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Είναι συγκλονιστικό από την πρώτη σελίδα, αλλά στο τέλος ειδικά δεν σε αφήνει να το αφήσεις. Εκφράζει αλήθειες και φόβους που φωλιάζουν στο μυαλό κάθε γυναίκας που σκέφτεται να κάνει οικογένεια. Είναι τρομακτικό το πόσο ακριβές είναι στην περιγραφή της ιδιοσυγκρασίας των πρωταγωνιστών. Θέτει πάρα πολύ καίρια ερωτήματα, όπως αν η κακία των ανθρώπων είναι έμφυτη ή επίκτητη.

Είναι ο ορισμός του ψυχουλογικού θρίλερ, θες να μάθεις την συνέχεια και ταυτόχρονα φοβάσαι να την αντιμετωπίσεις κατά πρόσωπο.
...more
Arah-Lynda
This is an uncomfortable read. It is like you are peering right into someone’s soul, maybe someone you know and maybe you don’t always like what you see. Still there are things to like here, things that every one not familiar with this tale would recognize. Good things. Sadly they are pretty much obliterated by the darker themes of this story.

It can be both uncomfortable and compelling, to think about the private thoughts of others. I think we would all be protective of many of our innermost tho
...more
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Lionel Shriver's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Earlier books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and Checker and the Derailleurs. Her novels have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her journalism h ...more
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“...You can only subject people to anguish who have a conscience. You can only punish people who have hopes to frustrate or attachments to sever; who worry what you think of them. You can really only punish people who are already a little bit good.” 215 likes
“I thought at the time that I couldn't be horrified anymore, or wounded. I suppose that's a common conceit, that you've already been so damaged that damage itself, in its totality, makes you safe.” 174 likes
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