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We Need to Talk About Kevin

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4.07  ·  Rating details ·  140,551 ratings  ·  12,817 reviews
Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, Kevin Khatchadourian kills seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher. He is visited in prison by his mother, Eva, who narrates in a series of letters to her estranged husband, Franklin, the story of Kevin's upbringing. For this powerful, shocking novel, Lionel Shriver was awarded the Orange Prize for F ...more
Paperback, 5-Star Edition (US / UK), 468 pages
Published May 9th 2006 by Serpent's Tail (first published April 14th 2003)
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Ann Dzuik As scary and unfair as it sounds, I do believe some people come into the world wired to create chaos, deriving pleasure from hurting others. When they…moreAs scary and unfair as it sounds, I do believe some people come into the world wired to create chaos, deriving pleasure from hurting others. When they grow up, they become sociopaths. I don't know why it happens, but society usually looks to the parents for clues to the behavior, fairly or not.(less)
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Community Reviews

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4.07  · 
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 ·  140,551 ratings  ·  12,817 reviews


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Nandakishore Varma
I am a little apprehensive as to how I should begin this review: there are so many things to talk about.

First of all, I consider this to be truly a great work of literature, not simply "fiction". As a great writer of my native language said: "The real story is on the unwritten pages"; that is, it is the gaps, the pauses and the undercurrents between the characters (which the reader is forced to complete or imagine) which is the mark of great literature. This is one hundred percent correct as far
...more
Emily May
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
...more
Courtney Stanton
Jun 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women contemplating having children
The pull-quote on the cover of the edition I read suggests that it's impossible to put this book down. That's almost entirely false. Out of the book's 400 pages, the first 300 were kind of like pulling teeth. Creepy, maternal teeth. The last 100 pages, however, were actually and physically impossible to look away from, and the brisk pace of the climax, after so. many. pages. of buildup, actually created a really wonderful, complete story that was very satisfying and which (god help me) made me c ...more
Fabian
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A novel that's elegant & overly articulate. So much dexterity is on display here ("Damn what an amazing writer!" is a perpetual thought while reading this), with a prose made by some wizard's alchemy, a talent-filled intuition, & 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 ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents and those who blame them
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Veekee
This book is just devastating ... and devastatingly good. I've just finished it, and had a little cry on the balcony in the bright sunshine, thinking about my mom and motherhood and blame, self-recrimination, guilt and remorse and parental love and the painfully ambiguous, sometimes tortured complexity of it all.

And that is underselling it.

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

- You believe that a lack of maternal instinct or feeling is a character flaw or a moral failing;
- You com
...more
Kiersten
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
...more
Jenny
Sep 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
Some readers really don't like this book and I'm not entirely sure why.

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

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

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

I think the writing was superb and despite it being a hard book to read (the incident with the maps was particularly brutal), it w
...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
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
Scarlet
---Immediate reaction after reading---

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

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


---Full review---

I knew before I started that reading this was going to be hard. We Need to Talk about Kevin is listed as one of th
...more
Becky
I've started this review 6 times now, and each time, I've deleted it because it doesn't quite convey the right thing. I think the problem is that I'm not sure just what that thing is. But one thing I do know is that I love books that make me feel like this... that "I don't know what I need to say but I need to say something, to talk about this with someone because this book won't keep quiet in my mind" feeling.

I guess it's lucky that this was chosen for our latest group read then, because I fil
...more
Nicola
I don't even know where to start with this one. The book was basically a whole load of nothing. It's the absolute definition of ''trying too hard.'' I don't care how many big words Shriver knows the meaning of. Throwing them in so often only made for muddled, disjointed, boring to read sentences.

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

T
...more
Better Eggs
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
At first, this book seems to be about a mass-murdering Columbine-style kid and whether or not he was born that way or his mother, who didn't love him, made him that way. Nature v nurture. Old.

Or perhaps it's the lonely ramblings of a woman who has nothing left except guilt, and it's only guilt and anything that feeds it that sustains her. Like a drug addict she gets her fix from visiting her son, then the rush, the letters, free-flowing words, all the guilt tumbling almost joyously out, no detai
...more
Jessica
Sep 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book attacked my brain like a virus. The character of Kevin, the teenage murderer whose mom narrates the epistolary novel, was so disturbing and harrowingly well-drawn, that I think it caused some sort of chemical reaction in my brain. He gave me nightmares. I swear whenever I picked up the book gray clouds covered the sun.

In a series of letters to her estranged husband, narrator Eva dissects her family's life, from the decision to have a child to the day her son locked 9 classmates and a t
...more
Paul Bryant
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
I give this one a couple of meager points for addressing the difficult subject I realise I'm supposed to love my own child but actually I don't because frankly he's a weirdo and always with the backchat, if he fell in a cementmixer how much better would my life be, a lot, and would the world be any the worse, no.

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

For my money though, bypass these poor excuses and go straight to nettyflix or
...more
BlackOxford
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jaidee
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Carol
A disturbing and gruesome epistolary novel that is not an easy read. It's like one of those horror movies where you know there is a monster with a BIG AX behind the door and still the actor moves forward. I kept thinking, NO! DO NOT HAVE ANOTHER BABY, DO NOT BUY A PET, AND FOR HEAVENS SAKE, DO NOT LET KEVIN BABYSIT!

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

...more
Norma * Traveling Sister
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
...more
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
...more
Addie
Jan 11, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gandhi, he's the only person I can think of with enough patience
Jesus christ this book was a waste of time.

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

Basically every character in this book is an intolerable asshole. You're supposed to sympathize with them, but it's impossible because they are all such horrible people. The whole escapade turns in to a frustratingly unsatisfying schaudenfraud.
Chapter after chapter contains nothing but the characters going OUT OF THEIR WAY to make you hate them. I hope this was intentional b
...more
Lain
Nov 30, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to review this book when I am so appalled at what it represents. I appreciate the author's attempt to get into the whys and wherefores of teenage mass murderers, but I'm not sure the book deserves the attention it's gotten. While it definitely presents the story behind one such (fictional) criminal, I don't believe that Kevin's story is every school shooter's story.

I think the relationship between mother and son (a son trying desperately to get a reaction from a mother who not only wa
...more
Libby
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: darlings, 2008-hits
It's official: I'm in love with Lionel Shriver. First of all, she writes novels that should be gimmicky, but are not. In The Post-Birthday World she employs a doubled narrative that splits in two at its heroine's defining moment of choice/will/agency, what have you. In We Have to Talk About Kevin she goes for the epistolary form. But in both cases, the "device" is perfectly matched to the content, like an igloo (form follows function y'all). The meaning of the novel is bound to its form. Secon ...more
Trudi

It is now abundantly clear to me why this novel is such a popular selection for book clubs the world over -- it is a family saga that features a sordid tragedy, filled with abhorrent, compelling, wretched, titillating detail. It is a book meant to conquer and divide its readers, elicit strong emotion, a take-no-prisoners approach that leaves you anything but detached and unmoved. I can't imagine anyone coming to the end of this ordeal (for it is an ordeal) and not have some opinion, if not a ple
...more
Arah-Lynda
This is an uncomfortable read. It is like you are peering right into someone’s soul, maybe someone you know and maybe you don’t always like what you see. Still there are things to like here, things that every one not familiar with this tale would recognize. Good things. Sadly they are pretty much obliterated by the darker themes of this story.

It can be both uncomfortable and compelling, to think about the private thoughts of others. I think we would all be protective of many of our innermost tho
...more
Carol
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-audible
Ordinary People spawn Rosemary's Baby! What a toxic brew of utterly abhorrent characters. Riveting, disturbing and unputdownable; but, very well written.
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
...more
Deborah Markus
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The short review: HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS NOBODY TOLD ME THERE'D BE EYEBALL STUFF I HATE EYEBALL STUFF THIS BOOK IS SCARY AS &$#%! HOW DO I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH?

The details: A few weeks ago, a GR friend of mine reviewed a book about women who are regretlessly childless. (Yes, my spellchecker just told me "regretlessly" isn't a word. It is now.) A troll swaggered over to the comment section and mansplained that he knows plenty of women who wish they'd had kids when they had the chance, so all us
...more
Jess☺️
We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel shiriver is that book where I just can't I can't get past the first 50 pages no matter how I try.
This maybe for some people but this is just not for me I love a book I can jump straight into and this one is not it.
I hope others enjoy it and give it a better chance.
Kim
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book scared the living crap out of me. (living crap? Really? Is there another kind? I mean, is it dead when it’s out of you? I’m sorry… not getting it)

I kind of sort of knew the gist of the book. It was a rubbernecker… something to do with a deviant child, national tragedy, bandwagon message but I was not expecting this. It is so well written, so proper in its delivery that it takes awhile to warm up to the protagonist as she writes these letters to her husband post trauma or as she calls i
...more
Char
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It's been a couple of years now since I read this book; which I find to be amazing because I still think about this novel all the time.

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

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

I highly recommend this story to horror fans, especially those that love psych
...more
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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
“...You can only subject people to anguish who have a conscience. You can only punish people who have hopes to frustrate or attachments to sever; who worry what you think of them. You can really only punish people who are already a little bit good.” 255 likes
“I thought at the time that I couldn't be horrified anymore, or wounded. I suppose that's a common conceit, that you've already been so damaged that damage itself, in its totality, makes you safe.” 218 likes
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