Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

80660Title: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Author: Lionel Shriver

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Publication Date: 2003


We Need to Talk About Kevin

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

What an emotional roller coaster of a book! Wow. So devastating. It put a halt to my entire day. There’s so much to say about this story, but it’s so difficult to critique such a moral-questioning tale. This is the story of Kevin Katchadorian, potentially a sociopath, and his family. It’s an epistolary novel written from the perspective of Kevin’s mother, Eva. Her family–Kevin, her husband Franklin, and their daughter Celia–are all presented through her perspective and her memories.

What I found most difficult in this story is that it makes you question everything that’s being told to you. Yes, there is a devastating mass-murder that takes place, and you constantly question why such a horrendous thing takes place. It’s a part of the story that will bring you to tears. But the story is about the murderer: who were the influences in his life, and how did he come to be the adolescence that brought the weapon to school.

It’s impossible to really know the whole truth of Kevin’s life. Eva, as a narrator, is biased because she never wanted to be a mother. She’s completely unreliable, leaving the reader to fend for themselves to question what the real story is. Is Kevin a product of nature, nurture, or a little bit of both? Does he even deserve to have his story told. Eva and Kevin don’t hit off right from the get go. Kevin is born and refuses to nurse on the breast. It’s just down hill from there. Theirs is a relationship of malice, of struggle, and even of violence. I wanted to believe Eva as even her own husband is unable to do, but it’s difficult to find the root of truth in her stories because of her inherent dislike and distrust of her own child. I can somewhat sympathize with her struggle and her isolation. Her own husband refuses to believe a word she says. If her portrayal of Kevin as a child is truthful, than he is born a depressed, angry, and withdraw child. She is a woman forced to bear the cross of trying to connect with a child that loathes her very existence with a husband who always sides with the child that hates her. But I do believe that her anger pushes Kevin to become the teen that he is. Eva cannot stop herself from hissing insults and jabs at her son even as he is a toddler.

This entire story calls morality into question. It led me into wanting to place blame, but didn’t give a suitable person to place that blame on. Ultimately, Kevin is the person who made the decision to kill, but is he really at fault for the person he became. Was he driven to kill by the neglect of a mother who could never bring herself to truly and honestly love him? Obviously this story raises a LOT of VERY difficult questions. Of course, Kevin’s actions are horrifying and are completely unforgivable. It is not a story of happy endings. Overall, it is well written and contemplative. I don’t know if I can bring myself to watch the movie now, knowing the ending, but it’s an excellent read.

Published by wornpagesandink

Hi! I'm Jaaron. I'm a book-obsessed blogger, writer, reader, coffee-drinker, and dog-lover. I have a B.A.H. in English Literature and a post-graduate diploma in Book and Magazine publishing. I've been fortunate to have worked in both trade and educational publishing. If you have any recommendations for excellent reads, let me know!

5 thoughts on “Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

  1. I was interested to hear your thoughts on the book! I’ve seen the trailer for the movie, but honestly, the whole story is too dark for my liking. It sounds like a very thought-provoking read indeed!


  2. I found this to be one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read and still cannot think about it without feeling deeply sad and almost queasy. Shriver does an amazing job at creating a work that will always generate conversation but having said that, I know I’ll never see the movie nor am I certain that I should have read the book. I can’t unread it and I don’t need it in my head.


    1. I agree. It’s a very hard book to stomach. I’ve got to say, after reading it, I don’t know if I could handle the movie either. This book really made me hesitate. It deals with such hard topics, to see that on screen might just be too much.


      1. I have a friend who watched it and she said it followed the book closely. Right then I knew I could never watch it. Don’t want to put spoilers in this comment but I know you know what I mean. Some things you can’t unsee.


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