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We Need to Talk About Kevin

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4.08  ·  Rating details ·  150,640 ratings  ·  13,478 reviews

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 co

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Paperback, 400 pages
Published July 3rd 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published April 14th 2003)
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Carianne
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Amy It is my firm conviction that there was nothing wrong with either child, it was the mother who had something wrong with her. Here is my theory on this…moreIt is my firm conviction that there was nothing wrong with either child, it was the mother who had something wrong with her. Here is my theory on this, and my reasoning. Some of the views I express here may be quite unpopular with some people.

Eva treated Kevin badly from birth and conditioned him to hate her and to behave the way he did, and when Celia was born, she conditioned her to be needy and scared of everything.

Children are NOT inherently bad from birth. Kevin definitely had some behavioural problems (possibly ADHD or an Autistic Spectrum disorder) but that could have been due to the foetal alcohol syndrome he developed due to his mother's drinking when he was in the womb.

There was no way of Kevin being so calculated as a child, to the point of being portrayed as evil because children simply do not think that way. His mother projected all his 'bad behaviour' onto him and in time he began to behave the way she expected him to, and likewise with Celia, who was mollycoddled by her mother from the day she was born.

Celia's unnatural fears were not caused by Kevin. They were caused by her mother. Celia saw how her mother treated Kevin and was afraid that if she did not continue to cling to her mother the way she did, her mother would begin to treat her the same way.

The incident with the acid could well have been a childish plan cooked up by Celia herself to try and get their mother to treat them both the same way by persuading her that Celia is also badly behaved for playing with the drain cleaner fluid, and the plan backfired as she got it in her eye by accident. This explains her reluctance to point the finger at Kevin, because it wasn't actually his fault. He is likely to have gone along with Celia's plan in a last-ditch, desperate attempt to get his mother to see that both children are the same and should be treated as such.

It's actually really surprising how many of these answers are siding with the mother. Eva was the evil one in this novel. She is a VERY unreliable narrator and definitely has some kind of mental health issue. Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy comes to mind here, where parents project certain behavioural traits onto their children for various reasons (the actual syndrome pertains to illness and diseases).

Reading this novel put me in mind of Dave Pelzer's 'A Child Called It' although that is from the point of view of the mistreated child and not the mother who is convinced her child is bad and evil. Eva broke Kevin's arm once, who knows what else she did to him. She may well have caused his 'illness' when he was 10 that confined him to his bed and could have killed him. Maybe she poisoned him? She (as the narrator) is definitely not going to admit that to the reader so it's up to us to judge.

I believe that is the author's aim though - to present us with a one-sided ambiguous story and leave it up to us to judge. (less)

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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
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Emily May
Jul 26, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Courtney Stanton
Jun 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 c ...more
Fabian
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 real ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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Kiersten
Mar 16, 2011 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
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Jenny
Sep 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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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
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 22, 2012 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 th ...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
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Petra-X
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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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
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Paul Bryant
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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Adina
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: us
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 listen
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BlackOxford
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american
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 cons
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Jessica
Sep 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
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Jaidee
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Dr Phil on a very bad day
Recommended to Jaidee by: Jerry Springer on a medium bad day
Shelves: two-stars-books
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
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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

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Norma * Traveling Sister and proud Grandma!!!
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 c
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Bionic Jean
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
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Addie
Jan 11, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
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Lain
Nov 30, 2007 rated it liked it
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
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Carol
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Libby
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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Arah-Lynda
May 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: lets-get-real, i-said
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
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B the BookAddict
Oct 04, 2013 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
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Deborah Markus
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 gal
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Kim
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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Char
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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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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