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We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel…

We Need to Talk About Kevin (original 2003; edition 2006)

by Lionel Shriver

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,360296819 (4.1)1 / 585
Title:We Need to Talk About Kevin
Authors:Lionel Shriver
Info:Harper Perennial (2006), Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Read in 2011, Read but unowned
Tags:Fiction, Epistolary, Motherhood, Mothers and Sons, Family, Parenting, Murder, School Shooting, LT Inspired, @S, a2010, BOYS11, 2011

Work details

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (2003)

  1. 91
    Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (bnbookgirl, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Both of these novels are about school shootings and the alienated teenage boys responsible for them. 'We need to talk about Kevin' depicts the complex relationships within the shooter's family, whereas 'Nineteen minutes' focuses on the larger community affected by the event.… (more)
  2. 81
    Columbine by Dave Cullen (GCPLreader)
  3. 50
    The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing (christiguc, humppabeibi)
    christiguc: Both are books that explore the nature vs. nurture question in disturbing situations.
  4. 40
    Before and After by Rosellen Brown (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Both of these novels tell haunting, harrowing stories about the family relationships of teenage boys who commit unthinkable crimes: in 'We need to talk about Kevin' a school shooting, and in 'Before and after' a teenager's murder of his girlfriend.… (more)
  5. 30
    Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland (verenka)
    verenka: Both books deal with the aftermath of school shootings but from different perspectives.
  6. 30
    The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb (freddlerabbit)
  7. 42
    Defending Jacob by William Landay (arielfl, Booksloth)
    arielfl: Both books are about bad seed boys who murder and who have mothers who have an inkling about their true nature and with fathers who deny, deny, deny.
  8. 10
    The Point of Rescue / The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah (JeaniusOak)
    JeaniusOak: Both novels explore difficult themes surrounding Motherhood.
  9. 00
    Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist (julienne_preacher)
  10. 00
    The Dinner by Herman Koch (INTPLibrarian)
    INTPLibrarian: Disturbed child and parents dealing with it. Both with twists / unexpected parts.
  11. 22
    The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (RidgewayGirl)
  12. 00
    Boy A by Jonathan Trigell (FemmeNoiresque)
  13. 12
    The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan (Monika_L)
  14. 03
    Empire Falls by Richard Russo (mcenroeucsb)

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English (282)  French (4)  German (3)  Italian (2)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (296)
Showing 1-5 of 282 (next | show all)
I give this book 5 stars because it spooked the heck out of me. Any book that can evoke that kind of emotion should get max star. I watched the movie following it and it spooked me too. Pregnant with my son at the time I thought her writing played on the many insecurities and anxieties that new and veteran parents feel daily. ( )
  mootzymom | Jun 29, 2015 |
This book ended up being so much more than I thought it would be.

What I knew: a book about a high school boy who commits mass murder at his school, told from the point of view of his mother.

What I expected: a gruesome page turner with a mother trying to get her troubled son help throughout his childhood and being shoved aside at every turn and lots of hand-wringing about "what we could have done differently".

What I got: a smartly written, introspective book about the challenges of mothering a child whom you don't like from day one, made especially challenging by your husband's inability to admit that your son is anything but normal.

I'm really glad I finally read this. It's one of those books that raises many questions and no answers - I think it would make a great book club book. The book is a series of letters that the mother of Kevin writes to her husband, but the letters are obviously a sort of catharsis or attempt at self-discovery from the beginning. They are written in the years after Kevin commits murder and start at the beginning of the path to parenthood, analyzing their family up to Thursday, the day of the massacre. I imagine most readers fall into one of two camps - either thinking that this mother created Kevin by her lack of affection for him from day one, or thinking that Kevin really was born a monster. I do think the answer lies somewhere in between. In fact, I was most angry at the father in this book. I thought that if he had been able to admit that Kevin was different, they might have been able to get him some help at an earlier age. But, then again, who knows if that would have worked anyway?

There were some major aspects of the book that were fairly unbelievable to me. The parents are so obviously attached to one of their two children and disliked almost to hatred the other child (both choosing oppositely). This doesn't ring quite true to me. On the other hand, the whole voice of the mother must be understood as reflecting back on a time after already knowing what her son would do and become. That certainly must have given the author some freedom to read a bit more into events than the narrator may have actually done at the time.

Anyway, I know I'm talking in circles, but this book has me thinking that way, and I like it. I wish I'd done this one as a group read here. I think it would have made for some very interesting discussion. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Jun 26, 2015 |
What is motherhood actually like? I think this book answers this question quite well. It's full of things you're meant to be in control of, but actually aren't in control of at all. I was surprised at how much I related to this book, to what I have felt myself as a mother. Thankfully I don't have a child like Kevin, but even so, I found it a brutally frank and refreshingly honest dissection of what having a child might entail, if you are really unlucky. This book made me realise that I enjoy books more when situalions and characters are far from perfect, it helps me to make sense of my own far from perfect life. ( )
  AmiloFinn | Jun 13, 2015 |
We Need to Talk about Kevin. Lionel Shriver. 2003. Chilling. It took me a little while to get into this book. I think I may have started it twice, but once I got started it was hard to stop. The mother of a teenage boy writes letters to her ex-husband gradually revealing the events leading up to the day Kevin systematically planned and carried out an ambush of 9 people in his high school. The entire novel is composed in letter form, epistolary novels, I think they’re called and I’ve always liked the. The form was perfect for this novel. It is believable, and that is what makes it so horrible, and so difficult to put down. I did find Kevin’s father’s blindness to what Kevin was really like unrealistic. Kevin was an amoral little sh.t from the beginning. ( )
  judithrs | Jan 19, 2015 |
Like any great book, Lionel Shriver's [book:We Need to Talk About Kevin] refuses, despite its title, to be reduced to a simple 'it's about' summary.

It is about high-school shootings, but it's also about society's expectations of Motherhood; it's about the nature vs nurture argument and it's also about politics, and attitudes to violence.

Most important though is that it's a great page-turning read, despite the fact that it's apparent from the outset that Kevin has comitted a Columbine style massacre.

Perhaps the single most impressive thing about the book is how Shriver has created a narrator who is utterly credible, and yet on a return reading proves to be far from reliable. Like Conrad's [book:The Good Soldier] this is a story that has various levels, and interpretations.

In Lionel Shriver commented:

"Interestingly, it is not the school shooting stuff that people want to talk about, and if anything this aspect of the book has been more a commercial turn-off than come-on. It’s these themes you think are subsumed that explain why this novel has attracted a certain amount of attention. I imagine the issues of parental responsibility, say, or the emotionally prescriptive nature of motherhood could have been explored without the school-shooting element. I just decided to do it that way"

( )
  Litblog | Dec 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 282 (next | show all)
A powerful, gripping and original meditation on evil
At a time when fiction by women has once again been criticised for its dull domesticity, here is a fierce challenge of a novel by a woman that forces the reader to confront assumptions about love and parenting, about how and why we apportion blame, about crime and punishment, forgiveness and redemption and, perhaps most significantly, about how we can manage when the answer to the question why? is either too complex for human comprehension, or simply non-existent.
The epistolary method Shriver uses, letters to Eva's absent husband, strains belief, yet ultimately that's not what trips us up. It's Eva's relentless negativity that becomes boring and repetitive in the first half of the book, the endless recounting of her loss of svelteness, her loss of freedom.
added by stephmo | editSalon.com, Barbara O'Dair (Aug 12, 2004)
Maybe there are books to be written about teenage killers and about motherhood, but this discordant and misguided novel isn't one of them.
added by stephmo | editThe Guardian, Sarah A. Smith (Nov 15, 2003)
A little less, however, might have done a lot more for this book. A guilt-stricken Eva Khatchadourian digs into her own history, her son's and the nation's in her search for the responsible party, and her fierceness and honesty sustain the narrative; this is an impressive novel, once you get to the end.


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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lionel Shriverprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Trouw, MiekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A child needs your love most when he deserves it least.
--Erma Bombeck
For Terri
One worst-case scenario we've both escaped.
First words
I'm unsure why one trifling incident this afternoon has moved me to write to you.
Every now again, one of those books comes along that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end when you read it. (Introduction)
I can roughly divide my novels into two stacks. (Afterword)
You were ambitious - for your life, what it was like when you woke up in the morning, and not for some attainment.  Like most people who did not answer a particular calling from an early age, you placed work beside yourself; any occupation would fill up your day but not your heart.  I liked that about you.  I liked it enormously.
Only a country that feels invulnerable can afford political turmoil as entertainment.
You never wanted to have me, did you?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who tried to befriend him. 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 absent husband, Franklyn. 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.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006112429X, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Eva Khatchadourian writes to her estranged husband Frank, trying to solve what went wrong in raising their son Kevin after he kills seven classmates and a teacher in his high school in upstate New York.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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