We Need To Talk About Kevin: A Novel

Paperback | July 3, 2006

byLionel Shriver

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Now a major motion picture by Lynne Ramsay, starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly,Lionel Shriver’s resonant story of a mother’s unsettling quest to understandher teenage son’s deadly violence, her own ambivalence toward motherhood, andthe explosive link between them reverberates with the haunting power of highhopes shattered by dark realities. Like Shriver’s charged and incisive laternovels, including So Much for That and The Post-Birthday World, We Need to Talk About Kevin isa piercing, unforgettable, and penetrating exploration of violence, familyties, and responsibility, a book that the Boston Globe describes as“sometimes searing . . . [and] impossible to put down.”

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From the Publisher

Now a major motion picture by Lynne Ramsay, starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly,Lionel Shriver’s resonant story of a mother’s unsettling quest to understandher teenage son’s deadly violence, her own ambivalence toward motherhood, andthe explosive link between them reverberates with the haunting power of highhopes shattered by dark realities. Like Shriver’s charged and incisive laternovels, i...

From the Jacket

The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awryEva 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, ca...

Lionel Shriver's novels includeThe New Republic,So Much for That,The Post-Birthday World, and the international bestsellerWe Need to Talk About Kevin. Her journalism has appeared inThe Guardian, theNew York Times, theWall Street Journal, and many other publications.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.97 inPublished:July 3, 2006Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:006112429X

ISBN - 13:9780061124297

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from We need to talk about Kevin Hard to get into seemed superficial, it's all about me BUT once one I got to where she describes the incidents involving Kevin it was hard to put it down
Date published: 2015-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well written and emotionally charged! Bring the Kleenex! I have also watched the movie but prefer the book. This is the author's glimpse into the life leading up to a school shooting from the mother's perspective. The detailed writing sucked me in and I found it difficult to shake the feeling once the book ended. Very well written!
Date published: 2014-11-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Hated it This novel is made up of a mother’s letters to her husband. She explores (ad nauseum) her culpability because her son committed mass murder at his high school. Despite the book’s very subjective viewpoint, I couldn’t forgive its implausible, black-and-white take on such a heinous crime. Of course the mom never wanted the son, didn’t love him (enough?), was a bad disciplinarian and on and on it goes. Oh yeah, she even listened to “Pyscho Killer” while pregnant. (I roll my eyes.) My two take-aways are that Shriver is fantastic at using a thesaurus and creating a novel that’s hard to put down—even though you really want to—because of its car-crash quality.
Date published: 2014-11-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying A disturbing story that pulls you in and refuses to let you go. Be prepared for a tale that lures you in and holds you tight until the end.
Date published: 2014-07-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying Hard to get started, but persevere it is intriguing, and startling, and thought provoking. Well worth staying with it.
Date published: 2014-01-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying A colleague recommended this book to me some 7 years ago and I was hooked from the very first page. It is a gripping book that leads the reader though a labyrinth of conflicting emotions and leaves the reader to contemplate the current state of our society.
Date published: 2014-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying This was an excellent but disturbing book. Written in letters to her estranged husband, the book shows a mother's struggles with the horrific act her son committed, motherhood and her ability to love. A must read.
Date published: 2014-01-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying was a very good read! would recommend it.
Date published: 2014-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying Interesting perspective from the eyes of a mother who is trying to understand that which she will never truly understand. This book will stir many emotions and you will question your previous reactions to acts of this nature.
Date published: 2014-01-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying A chilling, thought-provoking book, especially for mothers. This book stays with you long after you've read the last page. Shriver's characters are convincing and her story telling ability kept me riveted. It's been a while since I read it but I recall the narrative, told in the second person, was irritating at first but this was soon forgotten as the story unfolded. A definite page turner with a horrifying twist.
Date published: 2014-01-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying This book feels very real. With so much of this story coming to life in our newspapers, it's difficult to understand the impact on the families of these murderers. I imagine the emotions Eva expresses are real and heart-wrenching. The physical and emotional toll are clearly expressed in a well written novel. I enjoyed this book and have recommended it to many. A gripping read, and even though you know what's happening, you're still surprised along the way.
Date published: 2014-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying Amazing book. I listened to it ..worked really well as an audio book. Didn't know much about it which helped
Date published: 2014-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying Amazing writing, detailed and realistic stream of consciousness. Fully captures the pain and other life changing aspects (financial ruin, divorce, being shunned by the community, etc.) of a very troubling subject.
Date published: 2014-01-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying This is a difficult and at times unbearably grim read. It is an intriguing premise, an epistolary novel, where a woman agonizes over her son's crimes and her own complicity in them. But the narrator is extremely cold and not at all likeable. Her unrelated musings are infuriating, judgemental and classicist. Her reasoning for having a child in the first place and her inability to connect at all with her son are horrific. There are some high lights of the novel. Her confrontation with her son and their moments together are hard won, but the last part of the novel feels rush with Kevin's change coming in one single visit instead of a steady progression of visits. I don't know if it was because the movie started Tilda Swinton, or the character's feelings about America, or the UK heavy slang expressions but I couldn't shake the impression the main character was British when she was supposed to be from Wisconsin. A state mentioned in name only and not evoked in any form. There are also times when the author dropped the ball. For example the brilliance of Kevin's "three word essays" was mentioned several times. A feat that doesn't seem possible and was not backed up with examples this kind of essay (but she gave exerts from other school work.) All together, it is hard enough to slog through the subject matter, and even more difficult with distracting structure problems and such an unpleasant main characters.
Date published: 2014-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quietly terrifying I read this book a few years ago, but it is still the book I recommend to everyone who likes reading. Although this book is fiction, it is so realistic that it is hard to believe that the author did not experience a situation where her son opened fire in his school. In the book, this event happens 2 years prior to the beginning of the book, but the author cleverly goes into the past to show her entire marriage and motherhood, and then continues to come back to the present. Once I got partway through the book, I felt like I had swallowed a basketball and that feeling continued until the book was over. I was on an African safari while I was reading this book and although I was having the time of my life on this holiday, I was always anxious to get back to the hotel at night so I could keep reading. That truly says something about the quality of the writing. My only complaint about the book is that there are so many words that I had never seen before! This was a little off-putting initially, but I just ignored it and still knew exactly what the author was trying to say. I have since read most of Lionel Shriver's other books (it is a woman, by the way), and they are good reads, but none of them compare to this one. Go read it and see for yourself!
Date published: 2014-01-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting point of view The mother of a multiple murderer searches for truth as to why it has happened at the same time she tries to find peace with her decisions to stay close to the son she has never understood. The story may be a bit unbelievable at times, it is very touching and troubling. And even though I guessed the ending, it is still shocking and sad just like the crime it portrays. This novel raises a lot of questions about our love of watching tragedy unfold before our eyes while keeping our distance.
Date published: 2013-07-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Heart breaking This book tells the tale of the gladstone "shooter" from the mother's. it seems to go from bad to worse to utter torture. It tells the tale of troubled baby, child and very detached teenager. As the mother, Eva attempts to explain these feelings she has about her son. However, she rebuffed at every turn. The writer tells the story so vividally that you feel that you are there. He writes in such a sympathic way that you want to reach out to help the mother. It is evoking and leaves you wondering how does this event happened. There is nuture vs nature debate that seems to weigh toward nature.
Date published: 2013-03-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Started a bit slow for me, but really picked up. 4.25 stars Kevin shot eight kids and one teacher at his high school, shortly before Columbine. This story is told after the fact, by his mom, Eva, in letters written to Kevin's dad, Franklin. Eva initially didn't even want kids, and Kevin was a little odd. The letters back up to before Kevin was born and work their way up to the shooting and beyond, with some “current” storyline as to what's happening with Eva now, thrown in from time to time. It did start off a little slowly for me, but it picked up after Kevin was born, and really picked up in the last quarter of the book or so. I hated Franklin almost as much as I hated Kevin. There was a few times where I temporarily lost track of what time frame I was reading about, but that didn't happen often. Now I want to move up my tbr a nonfiction book about psychopaths that I've been planning to read for a while.
Date published: 2012-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stunning Eva builds her own hate fans by the admissions she makes about her mothering. Except no matter how much you want to not like her-her brutal honestly implores you to not only like her but respect her insights. This story will stay with you long after you turn the last page. So well written! Tough subject that we should all talk about. Kudos to Lionel Shriver.. make sure you read her "About the Author" at the end of the book.
Date published: 2012-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant!!!!! Hands down one of the most thought-provoking and disturbing books I have ever read. One reviewer noted that reading this book is watching a person slowly go down the steps of hell. That is exactly what I thought when I went through the book. I am not one to re-read a book, or even passages of a book, but with this writer’s masterpiece, I was constantly re-reading parts, over and over again. Of course, this made it longer for me to finish the book, but I didn’t care. This was because the book kept making me feel one way one minute (i.e. sympathizing with the husband franklin), then the next thinking the husband was crazy and siding with the son, Kevin. The book is so smart that it makes the reader not only witness characters proceed to hell, but makes one examine one’s own beliefs, morality and, in essence, makes one examine what their own hell would be. I have never read a book that made me fully examine every aspect of my life, both now and when I have kids. It’s funny, in many ways the book asks the age-old question, “what came first, the chicken or the egg?”. Was Kevin born a psychopath, or was he a product of his environment? In short, the book is great, one of the best I’ve read.
Date published: 2011-09-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Verbose but interesting I would have given this book 4 stars but for the writing style/language which was unnecessarily verbose. I chose this book for my bookclub in hopes that it would inspire a nature vs nurture debate, which it did. But most people found it too dense (in the use of language sense) to really "enjoy" it. I found this book disturbing given the Columbine nature of the content; but the book really picked up in the last 100pp or so, and made it very worthwhile. Read at your own risk given that the criticisms about verbiage by other reviewers is 100% accurate. A hesitant recommendation.
Date published: 2011-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Chilling This is a gripping story. It's hard to believe that the author did not actually go through all this, it's so realistic. The writing was excellent and the book gets more and more fascinating as you read on. It really makes you think of the whole concept of nature Vs. nurture
Date published: 2010-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly recommended! This is such a fantastic book! Everyone needs to read this!
Date published: 2010-04-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from HOw much of a Mother's influence When Deanna at the HarperCollins Facebook group suggested during July that we read this book free online at their Browse Inside feature, my first response was to give it a pass. I didn't really want to read about a kid killing his school mates. Out of respect for Deanna I decided at least I would go and read the cover blurb about the book. - That's when I found out that the book wasn't about Kevin, rather it was about his mother and her thoughts surrounding her son and how she raised him and ultimately whether as his mother she was somewhat responsible for his actions. - After the first few pages I was hooked. Yes, it is a tough subject matter, but it is part of our reality so I read on. I found that every so often I could identify with Eva. I suspect that many parents could if they are honest with themselves. - I appreciated the way Ms. Shriver doled out the details of 'Thursday' bit by bit. Too much at once could have overwhelmed me. As it was I could digest the bits and was prepared when the next letter revealed more. The book is presented as a series of letters to Kevin's father. - The last chapter was my undoing. The gift that Kevin gave to his mother on the two year anniversary of the murders had me crying. Up to this point I was convinced that Kevin was a psychopath with no chance of redemption and then he puts that box on the table. He does have feelings for what his did. I am convinced that he had been carefully listening to his mother all his life but that he had fought against her at every turn, now he was ready to end that fight and really listen. - A very good read, though I won't recommend it for very sensitive readers or for someone who is feeling depressed.
Date published: 2009-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Riveting I could not put this down once I got started. It's completely fictional but really gets you thinking about what happens after a school shooting to the family of the shooter and what they go through. Not a light topic, but definitely a great read and most definitely not boring.
Date published: 2009-08-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A slow start - but worth the wait At the beginning of the book, I found Shriver's writing style took away from the plot and story development. However, once you get past all the oddly placed commas and unnecessary "big word" vocabulary, I couldn't put the book down. This isn't your typical school masacre story - I found it was unpredictable and kept you wanting more.
Date published: 2009-01-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Gripping! Gripping. Eerie fascination on what could go terribly wrong in motherhood.I felt anger, sadness,sympathy, disgust for the main character and the ending threw me for a loop!
Date published: 2008-11-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Spellbinding If anything, Lionel Shriver has taught me to lower my expectations with regard to motherhood. Being someone who always enjoys analyzing the inner workings of a demented sociopath, I found myself turning the pages of this book with reckless abandon. That being said, it was hard to read at times, as at length I was stymied by an arduous lexicon. lol. www.booksnakereviews.blogspot.com
Date published: 2008-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Must Read I don’t know where to start about this book. Disturbing? Terrifying? Sad? Brilliant! I could not put this book down from the minute I started it. We Need To Talk About Kevin is from Lionel Shriver. I have never read one of her books before but this book was listed on the Staff Selection shelf at my local Chapters. (staff picks at my local Chapters haven't let me down yet) It grabbed me from the first page. The story is told from a mother whose is trying to come to terms with the school massacre her son committed two years ago. Each Chapter is another letter written by Eve (the mom) who flashes back to her son Kevin growing up and the aftermath of his actions as a 15 year murderer. Reading this book, you try and find somebody to blame for the outcome of the situation. Eve. Could Kevin’s actions and personality be due to the fact she never really wanted to be a mom and Kevin sensed it? Her career was more important than nurturing her son? Kevin. Is he just a bad seed? Some people are just born evil. Franklin. (the dad) Not supporting his wife actions when trying to deal with Kevin’s actions growing up? Not showing his love enough? Being a friend and not a role model? I honestly can’t tell you. I think it would be an easy out to try and blame just one person or situation. This book is far too good. It leaves you thinking…… The chapter where you actually here the description of events of “Thursday” is beyond terrifying. I was reading this portion on the bus on the way home and I had to sit in my car until I finished reading the chapter. I couldn’t pull myself away even if I tried. I highly recommend this book. You will not be disappointed by it.
Date published: 2008-09-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from overwrought, plodding narrative with little to offer This book's premise had potential- a woman writes letters to her estranged husband after their son Kevin unleashes his own brand of Columbine-esque violence at school, killing his teacher and several of his classmates. However, it fell far short of hitting an important mark. Instead of provoking questions about nature vs. nurture or inspiring the reader to think carefully about the causes of such rage in adolescents, it drags on in self-indulgent prose without ever making much of a statement or any emotional impact. Kevin's mother is not a likeable person, and I found myself unable to feel any sympathy for her. It takes forever for her to get to the point; so long, in fact, that you're never entirely sure what her point is. While it does have a bit of a twist at the ending, by the time you get there, you're just too bored to care.
Date published: 2008-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely great! We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver, is one of the most powerful books I've ever had the honour of reading. The compelling story is timely in light of the tragic events in high schools and universities across the United States and, to a lesser degree, Canada. Lionel Shriver is an amazingly talented writer who demands that you feel every emotion that the family goes through. In the end, I was drained, but gained valuable insight into a very serious problem plaguing our youth.
Date published: 2008-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was a mind boggling read. We read this for our book club. Everyone loved this book. What would you do in this situation? What if it was your child? Are killer's a product of their environment or children born evil or both? This book you will never ever forget!!!
Date published: 2008-01-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Review This book, although a work of fiction, really made me contemplate the reality of school shootings. It was an interesting read, although the use of unnecessarily complex vocabulary got a bit annoying at times.
Date published: 2007-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stunned to almost silence... This was quite possibly the best book I've ever read, and I don't think I've ever read anything where I've had such intense feelings for the characters. I literally could not put this book down, and felt like I lived and breathed this story for the time it took me to read the book (quite a while...it deserves to be read slowly). There were twists and turns I did not see coming, and I certainly experienced a range of emotions from discomfort to revulsion, but felt mesmerised to keep reading. I did not laugh, but I certainly did cry. If the author does not have any personal experience or connection to the subject matter, then she deserves an award for her imagination and insight.
Date published: 2006-08-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What would it take to unravel you This book is all about feelings and raw emotions. What would it take to unravel your life? I found it a bit hard to get into at first, I guess because it was so harsh. As soon, as I got into the life of the characters, I was hooked. I could not imagine going through what this family goes through and surviving. What are the decisions that we make everyday that will influence the rest of our lives? What option do you have as a parent when a child places the life of the whole family into the balance? What do you do when you cannot explain it to yourself? This book is not for the faint of heart and it will tug at your emotions while cleverly letting you take part in someone else's life.
Date published: 2006-08-01