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2 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

We Need to Talk about Kevin

by

We Need to Talk about Kevin Cover

 

Awards

2005 Orange Prize for Fiction

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A stunning examination of how tragedy affects a town, a marriage, and a family, for readers of Rosellen Brown's Before and After and Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World.

That neither nature nor nurture bears exclusive responsibility for a child's character is self-evident. But such generalizations provide cold comfort when it's your own son who's just opened fire on his fellow students and whose class photograph — with its unseemly grin — is blown up on the national news.

The question of who's to blame for teenage atrocity tortures our narrator, Eva Khatchadourian. Two years ago, her son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker, and a popular algebra teacher. Because he was only fifteen at the time of the killings, he received a lenient sentence and is now in a prison for young offenders in upstate New York.

Telling the story of Kevin's upbringing, Eva addresses herself to her estranged husband through a series of letters. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about both motherhood in general and Kevin in particular. How much is her fault?

We Need to Talk About Kevin offers no pat explanations for why so many white, well-to-do adolescents — whether in Pearl, Paducah, Springfield, or Littleton — have gone nihilistically off the rails while growing up in suburban comfort. Instead, Lionel Shriver tells a compelling, absorbing, and resonant story while framing these horrifying tableaux of teenage carnage as metaphors for the larger tragedy — the tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of purpose.

Review:

"[W]hile Shriver attacks the phenomenon [of teenaged killers] with unflagging gusto (she heavily researched the real-life school murders of the late 1990s), she isn't preoccupied with figuring out what motivates these young men, nor does she ruminate on how a vapid American society creates adolescent monsters. Thank God for that — what we get instead is a much more interesting, thoughtful, and surprisingly credible, thriller....While the plot — that a woman's uneasy confusion about motherhood could create a killer — is over-the-top...the grandiosity of it allows Shriver ample room to explore Eva's deepest, darkest feelings about her son. It's only when Eva has lost everything that she can admit her ugliest thoughts." Suzy Hansen, Salon.com

Review:

"[A] slow, magnetic descent into hell that is as fascinating as it is disturbing....And despite an unsympathetic portrait of Kevin, when at the novel's end Eva declares she loves her son, you not only believe her but you understand why." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"The timely topic...is sure to guarantee lots of attention, but the compelling writing is what will keep readers engaged....Through Eva's voice, Shriver offers a complex look at the factors that go into a parent-child relationship and at what point, if any, a parent can decide if a child is a hopeless case." Library Journal

Review:

"In crisply crafted sentences that cut to the bone of her feelings about motherhood, career, family, and what it is about American culture that produces child killers, Shriver yanks the reader back and forth between blame and empathy, retribution and forgiveness." Deborah Donovan, Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"A number of fictional attempts have been made to portray what might lead a teenager to kill a number of schoolmates or teachers, Columbine style, but Shriver's is the most triumphantly accomplished by far....It's a harrowing, psychologically astute, sometimes even darkly humorous novel." Publishers Weekly

Synopsis:

“ This is heavy material, but Ms. Shriver tackles it with admirable panache.”

Synopsis:

In this gripping novel of motherhood gone awry, Lionel Shriver approaches the tragedy of a high-school massacre from the point of view of the killer's mother.In letters written to the boy's father, mother Eva probes the upbringing of this more-than-difficult child and reveals herself to have been the reluctant mother of an unsavory son. As the schisms in her family unfold, we draw closer to an unexpected climax that holds breathtaking surprises and its own hard-won redemption. In Eva, Shriver has created a narrator who is touching, sad, funny, and reflective. A spellbinding read, We Need to Talk About Kevin is as original as it is timely.

About the Author

Lionel Shriver is the author of seven novels, and has written extensively for the Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Economist. She lives in London and New York.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Lynda Manstrom, December 2, 2007 (view all comments by Lynda Manstrom)
A chilling read for anyone who's ever wondered what leads a child to massacre their schoolmates. We like the safety of thinking that it was something in their upbringing, maybe abusive or neglectful parents. But what about a child who came from a happy family with loving parents and what, from all outward appearances, should have been an idyllic childhood? Told from the perspective of Kevin's mother in letters to her now-estranged husband, she relives and recounts the years from the time they met through present-day visits with Kevin in prison.

Near the end of the book, Shriver brings in a stunning and unexpected twist that chilled me to the bone. Not for the weak of heart, this one stays with you.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(6 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)
hollyamber, September 28, 2006 (view all comments by hollyamber)
Shriver's work is dark, engrossing, and utterly gripping. It is a brilliant work shoing an insight into a teenager's mind that one must question how did she get so close?
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(12 of 24 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060724481
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Shriver, Lionel
Publisher:
Perennial LANGUAGE: eng
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
High schools
Subject:
Teenage boys
Subject:
New York
Subject:
Epistolary fiction
Subject:
Massacres
Subject:
General Fiction
Edition Number:
1st Perennial ed.
Series Volume:
1
Publication Date:
20040501
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
7.66x5.44x1.00 in. .68 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

We Need to Talk about Kevin Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.50 In Stock
Product details 416 pages Perennial - English 9780060724481 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[W]hile Shriver attacks the phenomenon [of teenaged killers] with unflagging gusto (she heavily researched the real-life school murders of the late 1990s), she isn't preoccupied with figuring out what motivates these young men, nor does she ruminate on how a vapid American society creates adolescent monsters. Thank God for that — what we get instead is a much more interesting, thoughtful, and surprisingly credible, thriller....While the plot — that a woman's uneasy confusion about motherhood could create a killer — is over-the-top...the grandiosity of it allows Shriver ample room to explore Eva's deepest, darkest feelings about her son. It's only when Eva has lost everything that she can admit her ugliest thoughts."
"Review" by , "[A] slow, magnetic descent into hell that is as fascinating as it is disturbing....And despite an unsympathetic portrait of Kevin, when at the novel's end Eva declares she loves her son, you not only believe her but you understand why."
"Review" by , "The timely topic...is sure to guarantee lots of attention, but the compelling writing is what will keep readers engaged....Through Eva's voice, Shriver offers a complex look at the factors that go into a parent-child relationship and at what point, if any, a parent can decide if a child is a hopeless case."
"Review" by , "In crisply crafted sentences that cut to the bone of her feelings about motherhood, career, family, and what it is about American culture that produces child killers, Shriver yanks the reader back and forth between blame and empathy, retribution and forgiveness."
"Review" by , "A number of fictional attempts have been made to portray what might lead a teenager to kill a number of schoolmates or teachers, Columbine style, but Shriver's is the most triumphantly accomplished by far....It's a harrowing, psychologically astute, sometimes even darkly humorous novel."
"Synopsis" by , “ This is heavy material, but Ms. Shriver tackles it with admirable panache.”
"Synopsis" by , In this gripping novel of motherhood gone awry, Lionel Shriver approaches the tragedy of a high-school massacre from the point of view of the killer's mother.In letters written to the boy's father, mother Eva probes the upbringing of this more-than-difficult child and reveals herself to have been the reluctant mother of an unsavory son. As the schisms in her family unfold, we draw closer to an unexpected climax that holds breathtaking surprises and its own hard-won redemption. In Eva, Shriver has created a narrator who is touching, sad, funny, and reflective. A spellbinding read, We Need to Talk About Kevin is as original as it is timely.
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