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We Need to Talk About Kevin (Five Star…

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

by Lionel Shriver

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,8923721,013 (4.1)1 / 683
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, Franklyn.… (more)
Title:We Need to Talk About Kevin (Five Star Paperback)
Authors:Lionel Shriver
Info:Serpent's Tail (2006), Paperback, 500 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver (2003)

  1. 81
    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. 60
    The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing (christiguc, humppabeibi)
    christiguc: Both are books that explore the nature vs. nurture question in disturbing situations.
  4. 50
    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. 62
    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.
  6. 30
    Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland (verenka)
    verenka: Both books deal with the aftermath of school shootings but from different perspectives.
  7. 30
    The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb (freddlerabbit)
  8. 10
    The Dinner by Herman Koch (INTPLibrarian)
    INTPLibrarian: Disturbed child and parents dealing with it. Both with twists / unexpected parts.
  9. 10
    A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold (TheLittlePhrase)
  10. 10
    The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah (JeaniusOak)
    JeaniusOak: Both novels explore difficult themes surrounding Motherhood.
  11. 00
    Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (suniru)
  12. 22
    The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (RidgewayGirl)
  13. 00
    Boy A by Jonathan Trigell (FemmeNoiresque)
  14. 00
    Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist (julienne_preacher)
  15. 12
    The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan (Monika_L)
  16. 03
    Empire Falls by Richard Russo (mcenroeucsb)

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» See also 683 mentions

English (355)  French (3)  German (3)  Dutch (3)  Italian (2)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (371)
Showing 1-5 of 355 (next | show all)
Visceral. That was the word I landed on (thanks to Joan's help) that best sums up the feeling I got from reading this book. That might sound off-putting, when the crux of the book involves the child of the narrator perpetrating a school shooting. There's little gore, in terms of physical violence. It's emotional violence, almost, though its awfulness (in the sense of "awe-inspiring terror") is in the very rawness with which the narrator, Eva, relates the internal landscape of her entire adult life, not any specific actions.

The depths to which Eva plumbs her life, her relationship with her husband, her worries about her children, her mounting fear of her sociopathic son and everything in between are scary because of their groundedness. She's not an entirely reliable narrator, due to her relating relationships between multiple people who don't get the chance to have their say, but you never get the impression she's unfair, either.

This is definitely the kind of book you don't want to see yourself in, but in many of the characters I saw not facets of my character (the easy, "Oh he likes Doctor Who and *I* like Doctor Who!") but fundamental precepts through which I navigate the world.

When Eva accuses her husband, Robert, of viewing things in terms of the generic ("I'm so proud of my son") versus the specific ("Kevin did X that I'm proud of"), it was a gut-punch because it reminded me of how I made my way through college, singling out the broad assumptive touchstones ("We're fraternity brothers who are drinking at a party!") rather than the actual experience ("I'm drinking way too much because I'm interminably bored on a Friday night because I spend too much time not actually doing anything!"). The parallels I could draw between parts of many of the characters really made the book feel like it was taking cheap shots, and this is not a book that really needs to punch above its weight. It's already a prize fighter.

In fact, the only reason I almost didn't give it 5 stars is because I can't read it again. It was just too much to deal with, though I implore those of you who are able to stomach it to tough it out. In the end, though, I can't really fault a book for connecting too much, or for working too well. I'll have to leave it in the words of a Penn State sophomore, talking about the freshman dorms: It's the best worst thing I never want to do again. ( )
  kaitwallas | May 21, 2021 |
This had an extremely slow start but once Kevin hit his teenage years became a lot more interesting. ( )
  courty4189 | Mar 24, 2021 |
rabck from book_drunkard; a psychological thriller, very disturbing but you couldn't put it down. I listened to it, supplemented by the paper copy, and the narrator's voice gave it an edge that would have been lost if just reading it.
Told in a series of letters to her husband Franklin, from the mother, Eva; we know that Kevin killed several classmates and a teacher at his school when he was just shy of 16yo. In her letters, Eva takes us back through her life...and life with Kevin. She knew something was very, very wrong with him and yet after the conviction, she's visiting him in the juvenile correctional center. [Spoiler alert] - Kevin was a genius and he knew exactly what he was doing to inflict maximum psychological pain on his mother, by killing his little sister and father, Franklin, before heading to school to kill his classmates. ( )
  nancynova | Jan 24, 2021 |
I am on a roll with depressing fiction lately. This book I picked up after reading that the movie based on this book was one of the best films of 2011. I only knew cursory plotlines -- it was about a mother of a boy who murdered several children at his school -- so I was unprepared for the intensity and psychological tension.

The novel is presented in the form of letters from Eva Khatchadourian, mother of a boy named Kevin, to her estranged husband, Franklin. It is known from the very start that Kevin is the boy who went on the rampage at his school two years ago, and Eva's letters seem to be a way for her to process and examine the events that led up to it, after an encounter with one of the other mothers at the grocery store. Eva recounts all the way back to the early days of her marriage, meeting and falling in love with Franklin, their consideration of whether or not to have a child, her disappointment at the detachment within their family unit after the birth of Kevin, her frustration with her husband's inaction when trying to raise and discipline her son, her confusion as Kevin continues to grow into a sullen toddler, child, and teenager. Hindsight, of course, is always twenty-twenty, as Eva describes the increasing sociopathic behavior of her son.

This is one of those novels that I both love and hate. The character of Eva is lucid and careful in her writing, clearly conveying her feelings as well as the events which perpetrated them. I was drawn in to her narrative, sympathizing with her dismay and irritation at her husband's passive reactions to Kevin's warning signs. I also appreciated that she voiced her ambivalence towards motherhood, towards having a baby, the confusing feelings of anger and disappointment in both her child, herself as a mother, and towards her husband as co-parent. The author is skilled with words and shaping the story to evoke emotions in the reader. The twist towards the end, I should have seen coming, but I was a little disappointed by Eva's eventual conclusions. ( )
  resoundingjoy | Jan 1, 2021 |
I don't know if I will do this review justice, but I can't stop thinking about this book. It affected me in the way that only a few books do; I've been thinking about it all the time and it really messed with my mood. I feel pensive and slightly uncomfortable. However, I say this as a compliment. I think strong novels will affect you mood and leave an imprint on your daily life.

I can see why people hate this book. It's a terrible story in the sense that no one enjoys reading about school shootings. And the narrator is very far from likable. But that's the point - to make us think and reflect on something so awful. The almost clinical writing worked for the plot and mindset of the narrator. And I loved how nuanced the story was; Shriver does not spell every little thing out, but lets it unfold slowly. I also loved that Shriver doesn't shy away from difficult topics nor does she try to shield her characters from being unlikable or downright awful. She explores very taboo topics and exposes some very uncomfortable truths.

It's hard to say I loved this book because it was so dark but I'm really glad I read it. ( )
  JustZelma | Dec 20, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 355 (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.


» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lionel Shriverprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mosse, KateIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenblat, BarbaraNarratorsecondary authorsome 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)

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, Franklyn.

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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.
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1921145080, 192175849X

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