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We Need to Talk About Kevin

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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, Franklin. 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.

400 pages, Paperback

First published April 14, 2003

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About the author

Lionel Shriver

53 books3,649 followers
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 has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in London and Brooklyn, New York.

Author photo copyright Jerry Bauer, courtesy of Harper Collins.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 16,190 reviews
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,240 reviews2,230 followers
January 27, 2016
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 as We Need To Talk About Kevin is concerned. The novel makes us think, long after we finish it.

It is not a fast read: even though Lionel Shriver writes beautiful prose, she writes about ugly things. Reading it is almost like self-torture under hypnotism; you don't want to do it, but once you are into it, there's no way to stop.

The story is told in epistolary form, through the letters Eva Khatchadourian writes to her absent husband Franklin Plaskett. Eva is the mother of the infamous Kevin Khatchadourian, the architecht of the Gladstone High School massacre. Eva's letters are divided into two parts. One talks of the current time, her travails as the universally shunned mother of the infamous teen: the bereaved parents of Kevin's late classmates have slapped a civil suit on her, which she is fighting in her typically disinterested manner, and visiting her son regularly in the correctional facility where he is incarcerated. The other part of the letters traces Kevin from his conception up to the fateful Thursday.

As the story unfolds, we get a picture of Eva and Franklin. She, spirited, independent, liberal, proud of her Armenian heritage and a little contemptuous of her adoptive country: he, more conventional and boringly American. Eva as the propreitor of the highly successful travel guidebook franchise A Wing and A Prayer never wanted a child. But she succumbs to Franklin's entreaties and conceives Kevin. And from the moment he sets foot on earth, Eva's life becomes a horror story.

Kevin, through Eva's eyes, is portrayed as so evil that we shudder; as he grows up, his evil nature also expands. To Eva's frustration, Franklin remains oblivious to his son's true nature, trying to recreate some fictitious "American Dream" in his backyard. Eva and Kevin face off many times during the sixteen years leading to the apotheosis of his career on that Thursday afternoon, with Eva always the loser.

Kevin is an odd child from the start. He shuns breast milk, does not talk (even though he has learnt how to) until he is three years old, and refuses to be toilet trained. He is apathetic to everything, seeming alive only when he manages to goad Eva into a rage. With Franklin, he plays the part of the All-American Child, but mockingly, as Eva suspects.

Kevin's crimes are inferred rather than seen: apart from one incident during childhood when he sprays red ink all over Eva's darling maps tacked to the walls of her study, his mother does not see a single instance of his misbehaviour (if we leave aside that masturbation scene with an open bathroom door). But she is oddly sure that in almost all of the "incidents" he has been in (and they are many, including one in which his sister is maimed for life), he is implicated: but she is also convinced that her son is so clever as to hide his true nature from all except a perceptive few.

So the novel slowly moves towards its destructive climax, picking up speed, and when it occurs, it is much more than we expect. It is a one-way ride into darkness.

Lionel Shriver says in the afterword that people who read the novel fall into two camps: those who see Kevin as truly evil and Eva as victimised, and those who see him as a victim of circumstances, mainly an indifferent mother. It is easy to see why. Ms.Shriver has managed to frame the narrative from the POV of Eva Khatchadourian in such a way that the whole veracity of the tale depends on whether we trust her or not. The reader is forced to make a judgement of character and stick by it. In short, how we see Eva and Kevin will depend a lot on who we are.

For such a dark novel, more frightening than any horror story, the novel ends on such a sweetly sentimental note that there was suddenly a lump in my throat. Suddenly I remembered that for all his monstrous faults, Kevin is still only a child.

This book will stay with you for a long time after you walk away from it. More importantly, it will set you thinking, if you are a parent... which is not a bad thing.

For you see, as parents, we do need to talk about Kevin. We have been silent too long.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,945 reviews292k followers
August 15, 2016
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 impress, but actually only weigh the narrative down. Damn, it was hard work. And it was made even worse because it's an epistolary novel - I couldn't get past the fact that no one would ever talk this way in a letter. This is the second sentence (and they are all like this):
But since we've been separated, I may most miss coming home to deliver the narrative curiosities of my day, the way a cat might lay mice at your feet: the small, humble offerings that couples proffer after foraging in separate backyards.

Holy shit.

Kevin's crimes are revealed in the very first chapter, so it's a struggle to see what we're really reading for. I suppose it is an attempt to show how he got to there - built up through tedious anecdotes from his childhood - but without mystery or action, it was merely dull. We already know Kevin is a sociopath; we already know he killed a bunch of his fellow students.

I also had no sympathy for Eva. In fact, I felt a certain amount of anger towards Eva for deciding her baby had an evil agenda (that's honestly not even possible!*) and mistreating him. I don't buy into any interpretations that Kevin's psychopathic nature was something he was born with - it seemed pretty obvious to me that his mother fucked him up from day one. Eva was unlikable, Kevin was unlikable and Franklin's blind defense of his son despite the contradicting evidence was just plain annoying.

There was nothing to like here.

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34 reviews41 followers
October 22, 2007
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 cry out of a bizarre sense of *happiness* at the end.

This book is a series of letters (irritating) written from a travel-writer wife (unsympathetic and irritating) to her separated husband (tiresome and, given 20 seconds and a familiarity with Western literature, leading up to an entirely transparent "twist"). These letters start out being about her day-to-day life and a mediation on their slowly decimated marriage (something I really can't relate to), but soon they become All About Kevin. Kevin being their oldest kid, their son, and who recently (in 2000) shot up a bunch of his fellow high-schoolers. It's a post-Columbine book set in pre-911 America, and it's freakishly refreshing to read an entire novel about a national tragedy that neither mentions nor cares about terrorists, threat levels, Iraq, or What's Wrong With America?

Actually, it's vaguely framed around the Florida debacle in the 2000 presidential elections, but that event is used to throw into relief how little political issues matter when your family has been destroyed. For the most part, the narrator (Eva) talks about Kevin, why she decided to have him, what it was like to raise him, and examine the ways in which she failed as a mother and a wife.

It's weirdly inspiring. I mean, she is a bad mom. Not beating-the-kids bad, but neglectful, cold, self-centered...she is, essentially, the kind of woman who could only love a child if that was all she had left. And so in a way, she ends up raising a child who, in a bid for her affection, will take everything else away from her. It's both sick and touching, and a fascinating examination of how we're supposed to move on from tragedy, how life continues no matter how much you wish it didn't.

Kevin himself is perfectly written - both sympathetic and absolutely monstrous. By the time he's 14 and terrorizing his mother behind his father's back, I found myself completely unsurprised by everything as it unfolded. Of course he ended up killing 11 people. Of course he doesn't regret it. Of course. I'm not sure at what point, if any, decent parenting could have saved him, and I like that Lionel Shriver managed to write a lengthy book without answering, or even addressing, that question.

What struck me as the most disturbing thing, in the long run - and what's stuck with me most - is that the only thing that seems to scare the kid, and the only thing that seems to at least begin to make him snap out of his narcissistic power trip, is his impending transfer from juvie to the gen pop of a federal prison. The book never gets into it, but I found it deeply upsetting that the prison system is so horrible, mass murderers are scared of it. I kind of felt as if we're supposed to be happy that Kevin's actually scared, but I mostly was just creeped out that the system itself had managed to create something even worse than Kevin.
Profile Image for Fabian.
940 reviews1,546 followers
December 13, 2020
A novel that's elegant & overly articulate--yet VERY readable. 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, & a distinct view that's brutal & uncomfortably honest. Shriver outshines even Flaubert himself: THIS is the very core of feminism, of individualism (move over Madame Bovary... you cared more for the idea of love than anything else, anyway, & never really gave a hoot about child rearing).

An epic book like "We Need to Talk About Kevin" is rare, yeah. I can see this as some rather strikingly beautiful monster composed of the few scary parts from Ira Levin's "Rosemary's Baby" and the more ominous tones of "The Omen". It's a modern psychology (dissected with words so carefully chosen, both intellectual and to-the-core precise) that deconstructs a past for the sake of...something. I won't tell. This one has a DYNAMITE ENDING that will rattle you, and then some. It is, truly, pretty much everything you'd ever want in a book (Shriver's account is WAAAAAY more compelling than Philip Roth's Pulitzer darling "American Pastoral", & they share the theme of the American dream-gone-bad, as parents are betrayed by their own American flag-toting offspring).

Recommended 100%. It's a Grade A+ brilliant, contemporary, & (even!) historically-relevant novel.

August 16, 2022
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 details spared. But she isn't taking drugs and she isn't really writing letters either.

I really enjoyed it. A good read.
Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
449 reviews911 followers
June 21, 2009
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 come out soundly on the nurture either side of the nature/nurture continuum;
- You believe parents always, at some point and for most things, need to be held accountable for their child's behaviour;
- You seek the anxiety-quelling solace that pat sociological and psychological theories and labels offer: post-partum depression, sociopathy, unconditional positive regard.

This novel should, I hope, blast through any of those preconceptions--some of which, at some times in my life, I've believed.

Shriver turns all of this on its ear, and twists some literary and plot conventions to her own purposes at the same time. She is steadfast and clear-eyed in her determination to dismantle the 'blame the parents' catechism that passes for analysis and explanation of that which is inexplicable, in this case a school shooting and the lives, events and choices that led to it.

To do so, she creates characters who are unlikeable, sometimes deeply so, but oh-so-human: even Kevin. Unless you're a sociopath, which I think is one of her points, you cannot help but empathize with each of them at times; hate them at others; give them the benefit of the doubt frequently, too frequently perhaps, which is another.

Whether or not you are a parent (I am not), you cannot help but feel that you've been given a rare insight into someone's worst nightmare, because you have -- whatever angle you are viewing from -- and there is nowhere to go to depersonalize or escape it.

Shriver sidles up to her characters, cycling through the subjectivity of a first-person narrative from a defense into a self-flagellation into an exposition. Though the jig was up half-way through for me in terms of one of the last plot twists, it didn't matter and didn't detract from the facility with which the author employed the epistolary style, and the emotional punch it levelled.

Eva's retrospective self-analysis, through a lens tinged by tragedy, guilt and shame, gives us a perspective into events and motivations both in hindsight and as they unfold, retaining the immediacy and intensity that only a first-person account can provide. It happened but it is never past, because the telling makes it happen in perpetuity, which is exactly how trauma works.

Because of who she is, Eva is able to present with alarming clarity that which is unambiguously evil, and therefore that which remains ambiguous is doubly so. Shriver does not let anyone off the hook--these characters are so complex in their humanity, and yet they are also Boomer-upper middle-class shallow, which is never reduced to a cliche. She also never fails to produce horror--infused with the dark comedy to which only its victims or observers from a comfortable distance are entitled (and we are neither)--from sometimes mundane domestic details (an "eviscerated" 3-yr old's birthday cake. An exotic pet, a clogged drain and a shaver with an inordinately large amount of hair in it. A glass-eyed antique doll given as a Christmas present.) Kevin's rampage, like Shriver's prose, is revealed in poetic detail.

I was sometimes shaking with anger while reading. I would have smashed the water pistol a half-dozen pages earlier, yet when Eva finally did, her remorse at her ink-stained yellow shoe left the justification for the act coloured with her materialistic shallowness and hypocrisy. This scene, one of so many, revealed character in a way that only an absolutely top-notch novelist can ever produce.

Have I said? The writing is brilliant. God is in the details in this novel, in which every page needs, probably, to be read a dozen times (not that I could bear it).

And there is substance to go with that style: Eva's agoraphobic mother's offer to fly to her after Thursday reduced me to tears, as one mother's unconditional love and courage reflected on the other's--in a mirror, or in relief? Hard to say.

There are no easy answers here, for Eva or for us. There is no clear truth or explanation why, a matter on which all sides, including the reader, must--against our human desire for explanation, order-out-of-chaos, resolution--reluctantly come to agree.

This review, now, is an incoherent ramble--unlike Eva's self-confessional, bibliotherapeutic letters and the novel itself. It is still a fresh wound for me, and I will need to come back later when I've stanched the flow a bit.
Profile Image for Kiersten.
625 reviews30 followers
March 17, 2011
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 book that is supposedly made up of letters written to one's estranged husband. The letter format was an especially poorly-chosen literary device. I get that we, the reader, needed background, but did Eva really think that her husband needed to be reminded, among other things, about all the random little details of his childhood? They were his memories, after all. Why did she need to repeat them to him, and in such an arrogant, condescending way? And the lists of other school shootings. Blah. I became extremely tired of reading about those as Eva ticked them off. I felt like I was hearing a lecture or a compilation of NPR news stories.

But speaking of arrogant and condescending, here's another problem that I had with this book. I happen to reject the idea that the parents are 100% responsible for their children's failures or successes. Some children have crappy parents and turn out great, and I've seen the opposite happen as well. However, if any parent could cause a child to go crazy/homicidal, it would be this woman. Hello, being bored=not a good reason to have a child. (Did I really need to say that?) Eva was mean, negative, and overbearing throughout the book. And again, I realize that with the letter format, we are only getting the viewpoint of one, limited, character, but that's not an excuse for making the characters so completely one-dimensional. Kevin was evil, Celia was demure, Franklin was naive, Eva was obnoxious, etc.

Finally, the question of the big reveal. And I actually do have a question about this. It was pretty obvious what was going on, that there was going to be a big reveal, after about page 3 of the book (and I'm not talking about the fact that Kevin killed his classmates. That was not meant to be a secret. It was written in the description on the back of the book). My question is this--was this just poorly written so that what was meant to be a big reveal was, well, not? Or did Shriver make it obvious on purpose, in order to make it more awful to read--we knew what was going to happen, and we didn't want to read it, but we were going to have to and were coming closer to it with each page. I'm going to give Shriver the benefit of the doubt on this one, because if that's what she meant to do, it worked.
Profile Image for Jenny.
1,769 reviews38 followers
September 28, 2014
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 was worth it. I think this dealt with the issue of school killings much more effectively than Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes. The character of Kevin did come alive for me and he was believable. I didn't even think that counseling might be an option because Franklin 100% believed that his son was fine and probably would have opposed Eva if she had suggested it. Just like she never thinks about them divorcing, she also never considers giving her son help.

Overall, I'm glad I was able to finish it and I'm going to read more of the author's works.
Profile Image for Scarlet.
187 reviews1,149 followers
March 7, 2016
---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 the most disturbing books on GR. So, in an attempt to limit the coming agony, I made a few rules:

RULE 1: Do not get emotionally involved.
RULE 2: Do not take sides.
RULE 3: Do not dwell on the disturbing parts.

A hundred pages later, when I put the book down and went to bed only to replay and obsess over Eva’s commentary in my head, I realised my rules were long broken.

I got emotionally involved. I always do. I wish I could say that Eva's so horrible that I couldn't relate to her but a teeny-tiny part of me did, especially at the start. Crying babies terrify me and I’ve always harboured a lot of reservations about having kids. I’m not saying I never want to have kids; that would be a stupid thing to say considering I wasn’t even an adult four years ago. But I’m the kind of girl who gets a panic attack when she's asked to babysit her hyperactive nephews.

I took sides. Right from the start, I unconsciously sided with Eva. True, the way she thought of her son repulsed me at times, but I felt Kevin’s actions were more repulsive. For me, Kevin was quintessentially evil, and Eva was the poor woman who had the misfortune of bearing him. The fact that she didn’t want to have him in the first place just seemed to make her more of a victim.

As for not dwelling on the disturbing parts...well, there are NO PARTS. The book in entirety is a systematically harrowing tale with no escape. The only way to skip the distress would be to stop reading the book itself, and while that thought did cross my mind, the bibliophile in me couldn’t stay away. So I persisted. I bore the mental anguish. I let Eva’s commentary drill into my brain.

And that's my answer to why I love this ugly, ugly book. It caused me to recoil in horror so many times, but also made me come back to it every single time. Every minute I was reading, I wanted to stop; yet when I put the book down, I wanted to pick it up again. Like being addicted to something unpleasant and craving it, even when that voice in your head begs you not to.

This is an uncharacteristically long review, but there’s one last thing I want to add. This book left me with a question that’s bothered me for days. Like I said, I’ve always been on Eva’s side, but the last 4 pages made me reconsider. I mean, whatever Kevin did is inexcusable and gruesome, and I still feel for Eva, but who’s the culprit and who’s the victim?

What’s the cause and what’s the effect?

Is Eva such a cold mother because Kevin is who he is? Or did Kevin become who he is because Eva is such a cold mother?

In the end, who do we really need to talk about? Kevin? Or Eva?

I’ve ruminated over this question for days, but I feel it’s best to leave it unanswered. Because whatever the truth may be, it’s bound to be hideous.

“It must be possible to earn a devotion by testing an antagonism to its very limit, to bring people closer through the very act of pushing them away. Because after three days short of eighteen years, I can finally announce that I am too exhausted and too confused and too lonely to keep fighting, and if only out of desperation or even laziness I love my son.”

Profile Image for Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh.
167 reviews504 followers
August 3, 2016
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 the most disturbing. Totally self-absorbed, high-octane critical; full of discontent, no wonder she’s completely unable to form healthy relationships with anyone including the husband she purports to adore. Ergo a neurotic son.

It’s not as sensationalist as I expected, this is a terrific book. Would I recommend it? Oh yeah, but with disclaimers; it could easily offend and it’s horrific, so read at your own risk. It will make you think and it will stay with you, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ for the 21st century only way scarier because it’s based on reality. The writing style is unusual, at times painfully raw, often elegant and always intelligent. Be forewarned, she tends too overkill in the adjective department - like me:)

Memorable Quote: "You can only punish people who have hopes to frustrate or attachments to sever. Impenetrable passions have never made Kevin laugh. From early childhood they have enraged him. They were determined to find something mechanically wrong with him, because broken machines can be fixed. It was easier to minister to passive incapacity than to tackle the more frightening matter of fierce, crackling disinterest."
Profile Image for Adina.
800 reviews3,074 followers
April 27, 2020
We need to talk about Kevin is a cautionary tale about motherhood and should be read before one decides to take the big step. If you have a child and you don’t want to, he/she might become a mass murderer so better mind your own business and stay childless. I am joking but the novel doesn’t.

We need to talk about Kevin was painful to read/listen to. It felt like with every sentence that I was advancing through a mass of skewers that were poking my brain and heart. However, I could not stop listening, no matter how uncomfortable it made me going forward. I felt like a voyeur into a woman’s deepest secrets, like I shouldn’t be there. The narrator admits what no mother should, the unspoken taboo, that she did not want to be a mother and that her life was destroyed after giving birth. Did her feelings make her son the monster he became, capable of murdering 9 kids and his teacher? Or was it nature? Could she have changed what happened?

Kevin was an almost 16 year old boy who one day decided to murder 9 colleagues and his teacher. The novel is structured as a series of letters written by his mother and addressed to Kevin’s father Franklin. Each letter has two parts; one is a summary of the daily life after the Event such as the visits to prison, the burial of the victims, and the reaction of the public. The 2nd part is a chronological account of Eva’s life before Kevin, the decision to have a baby, pregnancy and the years leading to the day of the murder.

Eva spares no painful detail in her letters. Drove by guilt and the need to let it all out, we learn how she ran a successful business, traveled extensively to exotic countries, had a husband she adored and led in general a carefree life which she did not intend to change. Her torment before taking a decision regarding maternity, her fears and also the need to make her husband happy got to me. Even If I did not share her opinion overall, I understood her and felt her pain. More and more women are now successful, independent, enjoy good food, travel, have a good life in general. Taking care of another human being might not be on the list of priorities. Why stop the fun? But time is ticking; social pressure is still high to fulfill the purpose women were genetically made for etc. The husband wants a baby boy to play sports with? What to do and when is the right time to do it? A lot of questions, no clear answers.

What all her doubts did not take in account, and they can’t, is the love for your child. Something one cannot understand until he/she feels it. But what happens when you don’t? Motherhood is hard, especially at the beginning. All those sleepless nights, puke and shit, all the time spent putting the baby to sleep, all the feeding attempts, some successful others not so much, all the worrying. And all that fun. All worth it because they give back everything you give to them and more. Their laugh, their love. But what happens when you get nothing back? No smile, no love, only scorn and malice. At least, that’s what Eva wants us to see in Kevin. While we go over Kevin’s childhood it felt that there are no redeeming qualities to the boy. Which makes me wonder (and the reader) if it was his nature that made him do what he did? In the same time the question is would the baby/child/ teenager have been different if he were wanted/ loved more. Or would he have been loved more if he were different. I go towards nature but the way that kid behaved in the novel was too unreal, too extreme. Admittedly, I never met a sociopathic murderer and I have no idea how they are as children. Maybe like Kevin. In the same time few children with unhappy childhoods become criminals. Most grow up to lead a normal life, admittedly with some trauma that might or not resolve with time and love.

There was a plot twist that I saw coming from the beginning of the novel so it wasn’t too much of a surprise. The writing and the format were both annoying and captivating. I kept telling myself I will read one more letter and then call it quits but I went on. I was angry and sad, I was in disbelief most of the time. I wanted to punch Franklin in the face more times than I can count but then I remember we are in Eva’s head so the truth might not be exactly as she sees it. This book made me think a lot, I both hated it and was attracted it by it.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
May 14, 2022
We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a 2003 novel by Lionel Shriver, It is written from the first person perspective of the teenage killer's mother, Eva Khatchadourian, and documents her attempt to come to terms with her son Kevin and the murders he committed, as told in a series of letters from Eva to her husband. In the wake of a school massacre by Kevin, the 15-year-old son of Franklin Plaskett and Eva Khatchadourian, Eva writes letters to Franklin. In these letters, she relates the history of her relationship with her husband, and the events of Kevin's life up to the killings, and her thoughts concerning their relationship. She also reveals events that she tried to keep secret, such as when she lashed out and broke Kevin's arm in a sudden fit of rage. She is also shown visiting Kevin in prison, where they appear to have an adversarial relationship. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش نسخه اصلی روز بیست و هفتم ماه اکتبر سال2019میلادی

عنوان: باید در مورد کوین صحبت کنیم؛ نویسنده: لیونل شرویر (شریور)؛ مترجم: سیدحسن رضوی؛ تهران: انتشارات میلکان‏‫، سال1398؛ در470ص؛ شابک9786226573580؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده21م‬

باید درباره کوین صحبت کنیم؛ رمانی از «لیونل شریور» روزنامه نگار و نویسنده ی «ایالات متحده آمریکا» است؛ داستانی درباره ی تیراندازی در مدارس، و اختلال شخصیتی، دلهره آور، و روانشناختی است، که به دوران افسوس، و احساس گناه مادرش «اوا» میپردازد، که پسر نوجوان او، در دبیرستان کشتار به راه انداخته است؛ کتاب در سال2005میلادی، برنده ی «جایزه ی ادبیات داستانی زنان» شد، و در سال2011میلادی نیز، کارگردان آمریکایی «لین رمزی»، با اقتباس از همین داستان، فیلمی با همین عنوان ساختند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 02/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 23/02/1401هجری خوشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68k followers
June 6, 2020
Parenting Tips: Don’t

I have no doubt that fertility rates among women who have read this book have dropped significantly from the average. It is a Proustian-like meditation on the overwhelming irrationality of having children in the modern world. The upside potential of children is marginal in a post-industrial society; and the downside is... well too tragic to think about.

The risks only start with possible physical abnormality. Personality is far more of an issue. And ultimately one has to consider the amount of pain being introduced into the world, not just for oneself and the child in question, but also for all those who might be harmed overtly or not, intentionally or not, by this new life form.

A serious consideration of these risks is what leads to the philosophy of Gnosticism. In fact Gnosticism is the thinking person’s heresy. The world is, empirically speaking, evil. We are thrown into it involuntarily and the only thing we’re entitled to expect from it is frustration, disappointment, and pain. Sex and the cultural lures of parental virtue are the fountainhead of this evil.

Escape from the snares of connubial attraction is rare but possible. The Manicheans, the Bogomils, the Cathars, and the Shakers all had proprietary techniques for surviving until they could be rescued from a world that was obviously created by a cruel demigod. But all these groups shared the view that sex and its consequences were to be avoided at all costs. Christianity picked up more that a taint of Gnosticism in its formative years. It is this and not biblical literalism that is the source of so much religious aversion to sex.

Shriver’s novel is a sort of modern Gnostic cautionary tale. It is uncomfortable to read mainly because it is so irrefutable. Children, and therefore the decisions which allow them to be produced, are an unwarranted imposition on the world. At least as many homicidal maniacs as self-sacrificing heroes will be produced; and in any case both will suffer in their own way. Just as many children will despise and reject as will love and respect their parents; and among the latter group will be those like the offspring of Fred West and other sociopaths whose love itself is sociopathic.

The reasons people engage in sex are fairly obvious, even if only vaguely understood. But, despite religious objection, sex today is in principle independent of procreation. The reasons people have children are generally trivial when not downright nonsensical - to have a ‘real’ family, to satisfy the ‘needs’ of the other, to be able to shape another human being, to expand the possibilities for love, and dozens of other sentimental shibboleths which Shriver does an excellent job of cataloguing. None of these reaches the level of meaningful thought. Nor do they recognise the essential crap-shoot character of bearing and rearing a child.

We Have to Talk About Kevin is a horror story worthy of Thomas Ligotti. Within it, otherwise normal people become enmeshed in a sort of conspiracy of which they had no prior knowledge. This conspiracy at best involves an open-ended commitment to continuous worry, financial stress, and the occasional emotional devastation. At worst, it orchestrates psychosis, social ostracism, and personal annihilation. But however you look at it, children are a nightmare.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,319 reviews1,614 followers
May 24, 2012
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 filibustered there with every jumbled, messy, half-formed thought that my tired-because-I-stayed-up-until-nearly-2am-with-this-book-then-worked-a-full-8-hours mind could think of... Because this book won't keep quiet in my mind. I finished it last night around 1:30am, tears streaming down my face, hurting for everyone and furiously heartbroken over something so unnecessary and so seemingly unavoidable as what was depicted. Then I slept, and I dreamed about this book, with hazy, distant figures without names or faces, but bigger than life aspects.

It's rare that I dream about books. It doesn't matter if I read it up until the minute I drop off; I only dream about a book I'm reading, or have read if it pulled me into its world first. I dream about the books that touch my soul. *cue dramatic music*

This book was just... wow. If I were to nitpick anything, it would be that Eva's pen wandered a tiny bit too much into the outside world. I wanted to see her world, the world of her family, or her lack thereof. It took a little bit to get there, and for a while, there were hints but the narrative meandered along in its own time. But oh my, once it got going, it really got going. I don't think it was just my last minute mad dash to read this the day before my bookclub meeting that helped me to read 75% of this book in one night after work... it was unputdownable. Once I glimpsed this family's world, I couldn't look away.

There is... so much to talk about in this book. And I don't think that I could even attempt to do the topics or themes any justice (as I didn't in my bookclub, not for lack of trying). This is a book that begs to be turned around to the beginning again and immediately re-read. It's like one of those optical illusions. At first, the picture is simple, but then once you see the hidden picture within it, you gain a new appreciation for the whole.

This book was beautifully written, insightful, questioning and heartbreaking. It was nothing at all like I expected, and even guessing the things that I guessed (which turned out to be true), it didn't make the impact any less. This book was so incredible at making me sympathize and empathize with each person's perspective, though we only see these through Eva's brutally honest memory, that it was impossible for me to lay blame anywhere, even though the potential for assigning blame was huge.

This was expertly executed (pun intended), and it is not one that I will forget any time soon.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,179 reviews9,248 followers
March 13, 2022
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 where you get your movies and rent IT'S ALIVE!

This is a snappy underrated movie about a baby who is frankly unloveable because he tends to slaughter everyone within a 25 foot radius of himself. He's very difficult to get close to. Because he keeps scuttering away into the sewers.

So Kevin, of whom we must speak, is this dweeby young sociopath and yes, there are such people, and we should talk about them, yes, that's true, but not - please - not like Lionel Shriver talks about them. Any more of those creepy overwrought letters and I would have been reaching for my Kalashnikov. They are like an overstuffed Edwardian drawing room with beautifully framed autopsy photographs hung all around and poisoned angelcake waiting for you on a plate on the reproduction Sheraton. It's all more than a little sicky. The writer of these letters which make up this novel needs her head shrunk too, as well as her jolly son. As do I for reading this hunk of chewy gristle.

Frankly ridiculous 1970s movie : 1

Much talked about big fat socially concerned novel : 0
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,125 reviews1,624 followers
October 19, 2020

La mamma (Tilda Swinton) con Kevin nel film omonimo di Lynne Ramsay, 2011.

La signora Shriver nasce Margaret Ann, poi a 15 anni decide che quel nome non le piace e che per lei un nome maschile è sicuramente più adatto: forse per protestare contro una famiglia eccessivamente religiosa, forse perché troppo spesso si sentiva definire ‘maschiaccia’. Così, sceglie e adotta per sé il nuovo nome di Lionel.
Quasi una dichiarazione di guerra.

Il papà (John C. Reilly) con Kevin.

Lionel Shriver è consapevole del patto che sottoscrive col lettore: ti porterò in una terra e ti farò fare un viaggio che, a te, mio lettore, sembrerà autentico, mentre invece è frutto della mia fantasia.
La storia di Kevin è nutrita dei e dai fatti di tanta cronaca nera, di quegli episodi che si raggruppano sotto la stretta etichetta di “adolescenti violenti”, che fanno la gioia di pessimi esperti e biechi talk show.
Se la storia è vera, o inventata di sana pianta, o invece assemblata, modellata su fatti esistenti, tutto questo ha poca importanza: ciò che conta per me lettore è che la storia sia credibile.
Shriver sicuramente riesce a rendere le sue 480 pagine magistralmente verosimili e credibili.

Kevin (Ezra Miller).

Chi sono io lettore, sono Eva o sono Kevin? Posso restare a guardare o devo prendere parte, e schierarmi?
Pensieri ed emozioni viaggiano a mille leggendo queste pagine, impossibile restare indifferenti, restare a guardare, si è trascinati in una centrifuga che non lascia scampo: molti di noi sono genitori, tantissimi di noi sono figli, e tutti siamo nati – tre esperienze base che Shriver sa come usare e manipolare.


Alla lunga, la prosa di Shriver risulta un pochino troppo piatta: neppure una sottolineatura, o un appunto, una nota – scorre identica a se stessa, e qualche taglio qui e là, personalmente, l’avrei introdotto.
Alla lunga, Franklin, il padre, sembra un po’ troppo cieco e sordo, e non si capisce come faccia Eva a esserne ancora così innamorata.
La stessa Eva cresce sempre più nella direzione del classico ‘grillo parlante’, si staglia sempre più come persona che su tutto ha un’opinione e che mai rinuncerà a esprimerla a chiare lettere.


Ma Shriver non fa sconti: se Eva sia o meno la madre nella quale identificarsi e specchiarsi conta relativamente, perché Eva è la madre di tutte le madri.
E Kevin è la madre di tutti i figli, con la sua dilagante ferocia, la purezza della sua rabbia, l’abisso della sua infelicità.
Ah, Kevin, perché hai scelto proprio tua madre come pubblico del tuo gesto?
Ed esiste qualcuno che avrebbe potuto fermarti in tempo?
Quanto hai sofferto nei tuoi sedici anni?
Fino al punto di moltiplicare la sofferenza e distribuirla a pioggia di sangue?

Da questo libro, una bravissima regista inglese, Lynne Ramsey ha tratto un film: ha impiegato anni a scrivere la sceneggiatura, l’ha modificata secondo le esigenze del budget, e alla fine ha realizzato un film dallo stesso titolo, che è semplicemente magnifico, stupendo, devastante, come e oltre il libro. Un adattamento superbo, che conserva intatta tutta l’anima del libro, rimedia alle sbavature del romanzo, e crea un’opera a se stante, che io avvicino ai capolavori. Dove i fatti mostrati sono reali, o forse immaginari, sempre difficile capirlo, perché siamo dentro la testa di Eva. Tilda Swinton è perfetta nella parte di Eva – e Kevin è indimenticabile.

Continuando a pensare a madri presunte 'cattive', a depressioni post parto, a madri non accoglienti d'istinto, mi viene in mente la magnifica Ferrante di La figlia oscura - penso anche a 'Quando la notte' di Comencini: e mi pare evidente che la gente non sghignazza alla proiezione o ride di fronte alle pagine perché l'argomento è ostico, tabù, scivoloso - ma, semplicemente, rifiuta le cose brutte e fatte male, e invece accetta e apprezza quelle belle e fatte bene.

Profile Image for Jaidee .
573 reviews1,074 followers
October 23, 2022
2 "snarky, sensationalistic, schlocky" stars !!!

Third Most Disappointing Read of 2018 Award

First of all an apology to my GR friends Debbie and Amanda who I know really loved this one...sorry gals I didn't so I'm going to rant !!

Ummmm let's get this out of the way..... so frustrated !!

Lionel Shriver can write ! She can write damn well with razor sharp observations on American Culture that are valid, important and on the mark !

However...this book was such a miss on so many levels ---

1. Kevin is so very unbelievable as a character...he is better cast as a villainous robot in a sci-fi novel(maybe he can punch Ishiguro's Klara in the face!)
2. The events were so bloody sensationalistic that they take away from the real pathos and tragedy of mass school shootings
3. This is a spoiler ....
4. Another spoiler....
5. A baby could never be as manipulative or cunning the way Kevin is portrayed....even if he needed an exorcist due to demonic posession (jk)
6. Reasons 1 to 5 are enough to bring this book into one star category but because Shriver is such a good writer and observer of American Culture I am generously bringing it up to a two.

So yeah we really do need to talk about Kevin but not for the reasons you are thinking !!

Profile Image for Gabriel.
447 reviews591 followers
January 13, 2022
Que sí, que sí, que esto es un completo librazo y obviamente ya está encabezando el año como la mejor lectura.

Tenemos que hablar de Kevin es conocer a Eva, una madre arrepentida, presionada y castigada por la sociedad ante un hijo por el que dió todo lo bueno que pudo y aún así no sirvió de nada porque Kevin le quitó absolutamente todo. Eva narra su historia a partir de cartas, escritas y dirigidas a su marido luego del terrible suceso que da lugar en la escuela donde estudia su hijo. Al estar narrada de forma epistolar, la trama transcurre de manera lenta ya que se toma su tiempo para contar su vida antes de tener al niño y luego el posterior proceso que conllevó tenerlo y criarlo durante tantos años hasta el terrible desenlace al que ha llegado. Todo esto lo hace de manera introspectiva, intimista y profunda para conocer mucho sobre lo que pasa por su cabeza. No está de más decir que estas cartas son la terapia personal de la protagonista. Una catarsis que le sirve para tratar de sobrepasar lo que ha vivido, logrando sacar todo lo que lleva dentro haciendo una especie de purga para por fin sanar; superando todo aquello que guardó por tanto tiempo entorno a la relación con su marido y el hijo no deseado.

La novela me ha gustado tantísimo por atreverse, por ser frentera y tocar sin tapujos la otra cara de la maternidad, ese lado del que mucha gente prefiere no hablar o ignorar. En el mundo hay mujeres que saben que quieren ser madres, otras que no y hay algunas que tienen dudas y deciden probar a ver qué tal (como Eva) para luego todo terminar en un desastre al darse cuenta que nada es color de rosa, como te lo pintan varias personas. Eva vive un bluce sin fin de poca aceptación hacia el niño que carga en el vientre e incluso, en el parto pasa un momento traumático que la lleva a replantearse muchas cosas. Cuando su hijo nace espera ver su vida transformada y amarlo profundamente, sin embargo nada de eso pasa; no lo ama, es más, finge para su marido y para la sociedad que lo hace. Vive constantemente tratando de crear un vínculo con el pequeño por una compleja obligación moral y social que no le satisface absolutamente nada. Es tan fuerte su situación, que busca aferrarse hasta lo más mínimo para quererlo como su esposo lo hace pero al final siente que Kevin le ha despojado de tantas cosas que verdaderamente la hacían feliz: su libertad, el poder viajar y trabajar constantemente. Lo cual ha sido sustituidos por pañales, juegos y llantos cada dos por tres. Porque al final, no todas las mujeres están preparadas para asumir tanta responsabilidad y dedicación que consume tiempo en un sociedad dónde algunos son paternalistas, machistas y/o misóginos.

Y luego está el tema de Kevin, lo vemos crecer y hacer cosas a través de los ojos de Eva. Comenzamos a sentir escalofríos por cómo poco a poco las cosas toman un cariz tremendamente siniestro. Y asistimos a la constante incógnita del ¿Por qué lo hizo?; una pregunta que pesa sobre los hombros de ella, sintiéndose una mala madre y la responsable detrás de los actos psicópatas de su hijo. El padre, podría hablar de lo mucho que lo detesté, encarna muchas de las cosas que odio en una persona pero no me voy a detener en esto ya que su papel se resume en ignorar, idealizar y fingir que nada pasa. Que son la familia perfecta y feliz, viviendo en su casita igual de impecable. Lo cual es un completo engaño.

Lo único que sé que es una novela escalofriante, dura, certera, realista y muy compleja. Que me ha encantado que más allá de centrar solamente la mirada sobre el mal encarnado que es Kevin, pone el foco sobre un proceso tan duro y complicado como lo es la maternidad, que aquí no está romantizada, mucho menos idealizada y por si fuera poco, retrata la bajada a los infiernos en el sentido de como un matrimonio puede irse destruyendo pedazo a pedazo mientras hace una crítica al sistema de los estados unidos sobre la posesión de armas.

Es que lo hace todo de maravilla, la historia está perfectamente hilvanada y contada para comprender en su complejidad a Eva, la protagonista de esta historia y con la que pude empatizar demasiado. Y quizás también para hacerse una vaga idea de lo que piensa alguien como Kevin o Franklin. Porque sí, el libro deja algunas cosas al aire entorno a ellos pero tú como lector te haces idea y decides confiar en lo que te cuenta Eva, aunque solo sea un lado de la historia. Y sí, la trama es lenta. Así que sí, eso significa que no es una lectura para todo el mundo y que debes ir a tu rollo para poder llegar hasta el escalofriante final, el cual creo que jamás voy a olvidar. Me resulta imposible incluso no pensar en el.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,135 reviews39.4k followers
May 14, 2022
Some books stay with us forever! After reading them we cannot stop thinking about them. We keep contemplating each chapter on our minds and thinking of different scenarios about what we would do if we were in the characters’ shoes!

When you’re not ready to be a mother but you gotta raise a child, how to manage to do it? Especially it could be so compelling when you are forced to raise a child who is suffering mental illness keep pushing your buttons till you lose your control!

Eva and Franklin never think to raise a kid who will be responsible of killing his seven classmates and one cafeteria worker at his age of 15!

Now Eva writes letters to her husband confessing how she loses her control to break her son’s arm and surprisingly Kevin never gives anything away even though he turned her life into hell and Eva visits her son in the prison as well.

What has she done wrong when she was raising him? Does her reluctance to bring a child to this world is the main reason how her life turned into hell? Could she do something different to prevent the harm her child created?

So many question mark balloons are flying above my head with no concrete answer!

What an amazing book that truly haunts your soul and don’t miss the fantastic movie adaptation ( Tilda Swinton as Eva Khatchadourian and Ezra Miller as Kevin were the definition of pure perfection! )
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,032 followers
February 22, 2023
This is an unsettling book, although I would not say (as one critic did) that it is harrowing. It lacks the immediacy that this would need, as it is exclusively told in flashback, and furthermore the structure is epistolary - in fact it could almost qualify as a series of soliloquies.

The main character (Eva) is trying to search through her memories to establish whether she could be responsible in any way for her 15 year old son's killing of several of his schoolmates and two adults. This is not a promising premise for a interesting lengthy novel, but I did find it absorbing. Although Eva has been found unlikeable by some, I found her to be a many-layered believable character. However there are a few minor quibbles.

Eva, I worked out, was born in 1945. Part of the time therefore when she would have been considering having a child would have been in the late 1960s, when Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb was hugely influential. With the plethora of reasons for and against having a child that Eva muses on, it is hard to credit that she would have completely missed out on agonising about the problem of over-population. In fact her eventual reason for having her son seems to have been an impromptu masochistic one, which I found barely credible.

The structure of the novel too is rather contrived. It has been said that "nobody writes in this way to someone they've lived with for 30 years", and that it is "self-consciously literary". Whereas I rather enjoyed the sardonic wit of the narrator, it did begin to dawn on me that

But it is always possible to nit-pick. Ultimately this is a novel, and not a case-study. As such it is a very good read, and deserving of its Orange prizewinner status.
Profile Image for Jessica.
560 reviews135 followers
June 2, 2008
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 teacher in the gym and used them for target practice. Were Eva's ambivalent feelings about motherhood part of what made Kevin into such a monster, or are some people simply born evil? In the case presented in this book, I'm going to have to lean towards the latter. Even as an infant, Kevin is a solid misanthrope and shows a disarming talent for manipulation.

This question, which I think is at the heart of the book, is not as clearly answered as I'm making it out to me. In fact, Lionel Shriver, in writing about readers' responses to this work, says she has seen two camps:

"One camp assesses a story about a well-intentioned mother who, whatever her perfectly human deficits in this role, is saddled with a 'bad seed' evil from birth whose ultimate criminality only she seems to perceive but is helpless to prevent...
"The second camp of readers appears to have read another novel entirely: about a mother whose coldness is itself criminal and who bears full responsibility for her son's rampage as a teenager."

Shriver concludes: "I have found this division gratifying."

I definitely recommend this visceral reading experience. One of the quotes on the back calls it "A slow magnetic descent into hell that is as fascinating as it is disturbing," and I think that's pretty accurate. I'm interested to hear what people with children think of it from a parents' perspective. Because I tell ya, it sure makes motherhood seem terrifying.
Profile Image for Addie.
3 reviews
January 12, 2009
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 because I don’t think anyone could write about people so blatantly unlikable without catching on at some point.

And Christ, the writing style is even worse. This book reads like someone who had one window open on Microsoft Word and the other on Thesaurus.com. Thankfully this lets up as you get into the book but it still oozes of someone who put the words down because they thought “Gee, this will be really impressive and make me seem very edgy and intellectual”. It’s writing to impress rather than writing for the love of writing. I’m sorry I didn’t get tipped off by the plot itself. She took an interesting idea, but she took it for all the wrong reasons.

I wanted to hit myself over the head with this book repeatedly while reading it. Actually, I did at one point. It didn’t make me feel any better.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,121 followers
January 10, 2016
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 out how it all ended, and OMG! WHAT AN ENDING!

Update: January 9, 2016

Holy Crap! Just watched the movie. Many differences (including the ending) from what I recall from the book, but still super creepy and disturbing. Ewwwww......Kevin!!!

Profile Image for Panagiotis.
297 reviews104 followers
August 11, 2020
Το We Need to Talk About Kevin μάλλον θα το έχει πάρει το αυτί σας. Ανήκουν σε αυτά τα μυθιστορήματα που είναι γνωστά στους βιβλόφιλους, έχουν καθιερωθεί στο αναγνωστικό ασυνείδητο ως "καλά βιβλία", ακόμα κι αν δεν ξέρει κανείς κανέναν που να τα έχει διαβάσει. Συνήθως έχουν γίνει και ταινία, οπότε ο μύθος συντηρείται. Όταν κανείς τολμάει να διαβάσει τέτοια βιβλία, βιβλία καλά, από συγγραφείς που δεν είναι στην επικαιρότητα παρά μόνο όταν κάνουν το μπαμ, δεν ξέρει τι να περιμένει. Εγώ ένιωσα να πιάνω το βιβλίο και να το ανασύρω μέσα από την αχλή που περιβάλλει ξεχασμένα, καταξιωμένα βιβλία.

Το βιβλίο το διάβασα στο πρωτότυπο και ήρθα αντιμέτωπος με τα άκρως απαιτητικά αγγλικά της Σρίβερ: με μια προσήλωση στην ακρίβεια, στις μη-κλισέ προκάτ φράσεις, ακριβολόγα, γράφει επιστρατεύοντας ένα σχιζοφρενικά πλούσιο λεξιλόγιο, ενώ την ίδια στιγμή αφηγείται άμεσα, καυστικά, εθιστικά στον αναγνώστη. Δηλαδή, σε γονατίζει αλλά θες να συνεχίσεις. Η Σρίβερ εξιστορεί με πρωτοπρόσωπη αφήγηση, την ιστορία της Έβα, πιάνοντας το νήμα από τα 35 της -ερωτευμένη με τον άντρα της και της δουλειά της, άνθρωπος του κόσμου, κατακριτής της αμερικάνικης κουλτούρας-, όπου αποφασίζει να κάνει παιδί, εκπλήσσοντας τον σύντροφότης και τον ίδιο της τον εαυτό. Η αφήγηση εναλάσσεται μεταξύ του παρόντος, όπου η Έβα μέσα από τις επιστολές της μοιάζει να προσπαθεί να πλησιάσει τον, πρώην πια, άντρα της και όσων έλαβα χώρα τα τελευταία χρόνια, οδηγώντας σε δραματική κλιμάκωση.

Δεν ήξερα πως θα ενθουσιαζόμουν τόσο με ένα βιβλίο που μιλάει για σχέσεις -γονεϊκές, συζυγικές-, και όσων κρύβονται πίσω από τις εκδηλώσεις αγάπης, οργής και αποστροφής. Η Σρίβερ παρουσιάζει μια φρικωδία, αλλά εώς ότου φτάσει εκεί έχει μιλήσει για πράματα που ουδέποτε έχω συλλάβει άνθρωπο να εκφράζει: κρίνει, επικρίνει, κατακ��ίνει και καυτηριάζει με έναν σκεπτικισμό, ανατρέποντας πολλές φορές μια ιδεολογία που φαίνεται να κλυδωνίζεται τελικά, καθώς κανείς δεν είναι μόνος του, επηρεάζει και επηρεάζεται και έρχεται αντιμέτωπος με όσα χλεύαζε. Η μοίρα είναι σκληρή και μας τα τρίβει στα μούτρα, για να μάθουμε να μην τα κάνουμε εκεί που δεν πρέπει - μέσα στα μυαλά των ανθρώπων που θα έπρεπε να αγαπάμε και να αφήνουμε ήσυχους.

Εξαιρετικό βιβλίο, page turner και υψηλή λογοτεχνία την ίδια στιγμή. Εννοείται θα δω και την κινηματογραφική μεταφορά προσεχώς.

Παρατήστε τις σαχλαμάρες που είναι δήθεν "καλοκαιρινα" αναγνώσματα και πιάστε τούτο.
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12k followers
June 16, 2017
I don't think a book has ever made me teary-eyed before! I have been known to sob while watching a movie but haven't actually while absorbed in a book.

We Need to Talk About Kevin was it "Impossible to put down" as suggested on the front cover? No, out of the 400 pages of this book, I thought that the first 200 or so pages were extremely hard to get through because this was not an easy read for me. I did not particularly like the authors writing style, choice of words used, and all the details crammed together in a sentence. It was quite exhausting at times. The last 100 pages were actually hard to put down. After so many pages of build-up the climax was fast-paced and I felt that it was a complete, satisfying read in the end.

The book was told in a series of letters by Kevin's mom, Eva to her husband, Franklin. Most of the letters Eva talks about Kevin, why she decided to have him, what it was like raising him, ways that she might of failed at being a mother, and confessions of her own about Kevin.

So was Kevin born that way or was he made that way because he didn't have a mother that wanted, loved or nurtured him?

That is the question you will be asking yourself throughout the novel as you read.

It was a thought-provoking, slow-paced, disturbing, emotional, and difficult read but I think it was well worth it. I was completely satisfied with the very emotional ending. That yup actually made me cry.
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,406 followers
May 17, 2012

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 plethora of them, on the nature vs. nurture debate and parental culpability in a child's deviant behavior.

The power of the book is not in its brilliance or originality (because it can claim only a trace amount of both) -- its power lies in its subject and the passive-aggressive way in which it is delivered in the first person -- a cloying, nails-on-a-chalkboard supercilious tone surely meant to inflame. Its power is not in the reading, but rather what follows -- the heated, emotional, no-holds-barred tempest of feeling it can only serve to generate at its conclusion. It's an A-bomb type of deal -- right up there with abortion and capital punishment -- and it will make you question the very core of many of your beliefs.

But I didn't enjoy it. It's not a book to savor. Even the prose is overwrought, perfectly capturing Eva's hapless condescension and sense of superiority brimming over in her letters to husband Franklin, as much a part of her character as Kevin's sociopathic tendencies.

And herein lies my biggest problem with the novel -- it seems to me Shriver goes out of her way to present Kevin as a "born psychopath". Over hundreds of pages, the portrait builds, the evidence mounts, layer upon layer, Kevin as The Bad Seed. That I don't have a problem with. I actually fall into the camp who believe sociopaths can most definitely be born -- a true by-product of nature with very little if nothing to do with nurture.

I first thought Shriver was taking the easy way out to explain Kevin's mass murder as the product of a truly evil, unstoppable, beyond redemption monster. Real life is usually much more complicated and contradicting than that. Then I began to see the real horror for what it was -- an unlovable child, who could not feel love, who could not feel much of anything really and the deep-seated terror and repulsion that would accompany that realization, to recognize this thing in your midst that is of your flesh and blood as alien, unknowable, menacing, monstrous.

Then I wondered ... okay ... what came first? Kevin's sociopathy which evidenced itself at birth, or Eva's cold rejection of her son, her unwillingness to embrace him in a mother's love the sure cause for his later descent into darkness? You could even accuse Eva of being an unreliable narrator of the worst sort, painting a portrait of Rosemary's Baby even while she flagellates herself with guilt over her inability to see him as nothing other than Damien-esque, a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one. Despite any of Eva's shortcomings as a mother and a human being, in the end there was no doubt in my mind that Kevin was not made but born.

The frigid embrace of a hyper-critical, suspicious mother aside, Kevin came out of the womb absent some fundamental building blocks to engage in life and experience empathy. His above-average intelligence became a weapon to better wield cruelties and abuses upon his victims who he saw as no more significant than ants under a magnifying glass. Ironically, the only person he had any semblance of respect for was Eva herself, if only because she was the only person to see past the artifice into Kevin's dark heart. I also think Kevin responded to Eva's sense of superiority as well, that she thought she was better than most appealed to his own arrogance and self-inflated importance.

But then ...

Whew! I had no idea this review would run on so long, but as I said in the beginning, that is the nature of this book. It pokes and prods and incites; it's provocative and maddening. It is not enjoyable. If you are looking for pleasure, keep looking.
Profile Image for Lain.
Author 14 books119 followers
December 1, 2007
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 was ambivalent about his birth, but doesn't like him as a child either) is overshadowed by the horrific detals of the larger story. The nuances of the relationship -- and the truths about how far a child will go to gain his parents' attention -- are lost in the carnage.

A sidenote on the writing -- I dislike having to work so hard to read a book. I have trouble believing that an ordinary reader made it through this novel without a dictionary in hand. What's with the convoluted sentence structure and made-up words, and why did the author insist on using phrases such as "lambent joy," ""immediate rapacities," and "alien argot?" And this, from a woman who supposedly wrote travel guides aimed at the average college student? I think not.

All in all, a gripping story, but the sensationalism of the crime obscures the deeper, more accessible meaning.
Profile Image for Libby.
80 reviews76 followers
February 2, 2008
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. Second of all, her prose is fucking delicious. Her language endlessly delights me; it is crafty, artful, funny, acute, and heartbreaking. Third, she writes with more nuance than almost any other contemporary writer I've read (that's you, Kazuo Ishiguro) about the nuances and complexities of human psychology, especially in terms of how people relate to/react to each other. Fourth, no easy answers. Lionel Shriver's work is bold and often crushingly sad, because she is brave enough to explore the various unhappinesses of life on earth without offering pat answers as to its causes. Fifth, she writes about women, messy, arrogant, willfull, meek, submissive, brilliant, dim, WOMEN. God, she's so good.

As far as We Need to Talk About Kevin goes, I could not put it down. The premise is straightforward enough: the mother of a Columbine-style teen-aged killer (the titular Kevin) writes a series of letters to her husband in which she attempts to hash out the thorny questions that their son's rampage has raised vis a vis responsibility for his crime. Eva's letters constitute an amazing dissertation on the requirements of motherhood and its attendant mythology (I think I like reading Shriver's work so much in part because I always come away from it feeling more normal about my own gender fueled ambivalencies). The book dares to suggest the possibility that some people are born bad, are, from conception, simply irredeemable. It also doesn't shrink from microscopically dissecting Eva's faults, and by so doing, fingering her as culpable. As to who or what is ultimately to blame for Kevin, suffice it to say Shriver does not provide the reader with a clear answer come novel's end. Instead, she breaks your heart.
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