We Need to Talk About Kevin Book Review

Warning: The book that I am about to review deals with school shootings.

Even though I am aware that not every book will appeal to everyone, readers have a tendency to step out of their comfort zone once in a great while in order expand their mindsets. Some might enjoy a novel so much that they would like to read more books similar to that. Others might not like it, or they may have a hard time reading it. No one can blame them for that. I read We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (a female author) recently, and even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I can certainly see all three sides of this debate.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is about fictional school shooting around the same time as the Columbine High School massacre. Through a series of letters to her husband, Eva Khatchadourian – the teenage killer’s mother – tries to figure out why her son killed 9 people and what made him that way.

As seen in the summary, it deals with a very touchy subject. Just this alone might turn people off from reading it. However, Shriver treats this topic in a non-sugarcoated manner. As seen in my Turtles All the Way Down and The Survivors Club reviews, it’s the best way to deal with sensitive issues due to their sheer honesty. Throughout the novel, Eva harbors suspicions of Kevin’s behavior since he was born, but then again, she was not exactly keen on being a mother either. In addition, there’s a possibility that his killing spree clouded her perspective. Without this level of frankness, the novel would not have a realistic portrayal of what led to the school shooting.

Additionally, a lot of readers had some strong opinions about Eva. Many of them believed that she was so self-centered and egotistical that they didn’t care what happened to her. But then again, the book clouds the debate between nature versus nurture, unlike The Bad Seed by William March, which rules in favor of the former over the latter. On one hand, as Kevin got older, he adopts some of the same demeanor as Eva. On the other hand, Eva didn’t pay that much attention to her son and continuously suspected him of committing horrendous actions like pouring a cleaning product onto Celia’s – his sister’s – eye. She may have possibly drunk a little more wine than usual when she was pregnant with him, and she definitely overreacted to some of his behavior when he was a child like the scene in the restaurant. It does not help that Franklin – Eva’s husband – constantly comes to Kevin’s defense with a “boys will be boys” mentality and does not discipline him. I don’t exactly like her as a person, but I felt a lot of her frustrations. And, that’s one of the beauties of reading books; they allow people to empathize with characters that they wouldn’t normally like. At the same time, one has to ask if Kevin would’ve turned out the same way if Eva was a loving mother.

Another complaint that I have seen about this book is that the ending was predictable. I didn’t really think it was that foreseeable since it came as such a shock to me. However, when Franklin gives Kevin a crossbow for Christmas, I can see how some readers put the two together.

I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by one of the most popular and award-winning narrators in the United States – Barbara Rosenblatt. Along with recording audiobooks like Bridget Jones’s Diary, Rosenblatt has also originated the role of Mrs. Medlock in the musical version of The Secret Garden and has acted in shows like Law and Order: SVU and Orange is the New Black (the latter as Miss Rosa). After hearing her on We Need to Talk About Kevin, I can see why she received all those praises. Rosenblatt’s interpretation of a variety of characters including Eva, Franklin, and Kevin served as the highlight of the audiobook. She plays Eva with pure bluntness and great sarcasm, and when she has to be vulnerable, she goes all the way. It’s through this performance that made me feel for Eva even if others didn’t. The narrator gives Franklin the voice of a dad from the 1950s, which falls in line with his “boys will be boys” mindset, even though I noticed that she uses that same tone with some of the minor male characters. The best of all was her vocalization of Kevin, which oozed slime and a psychopathic vibe. It undoubtedly made me fear for Eva because I wondered how long he would torment her, especially when he eventually gets out of prison.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is a book that’s not for everyone. The subject matter and the character of Eva will be off putting to some readers. On the contrary, the novel refuses to soften the subject matter, and Eva is such a multi-dimensional character. This would be the part where I recommend it to certain groups, but all I have to say is give this book a try, and if one doesn’t like it, I completely understand.

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Published by emilymalek

I work at a public library southeast Michigan, and I facilitate two book clubs there. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, play trivia and crossword puzzles, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

3 thoughts on “We Need to Talk About Kevin Book Review

  1. I am not sure that this book would be to my liking. The review and the descriptions especially those of the narrator are almost enough to make me listen to it being a big David Attenborough fan.


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