We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
A Novel (P.S.)

78%

8 Critic Reviews

...a thoughtful and deeply disquieting novel about a mother coming to terms with her son's...rampage...
-AV Club

Synopsis

That neither nature nor nurture bears exclusive responsibility for a child's character is self-evident. But generalizations about genes are likely to provide cold comfort if it's your own child who just opened fire on his feellow algebra students and whose class photograph—with its unseemly grin—is shown on the evening news coast-to-coast.

If the question of who's to blame for teenage atrocity intrigues news-watching voyeurs, it tortures our narrator, Eva Khatchadourian. Two years before the opening of the novel, her son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and the much-beloved teacher who had tried to befriend him. Because his sixteenth birthday arrived two days after the killings, he received a lenient sentence and is currently in a prison for young offenders in upstate New York.

In relating the story of Kevin's upbringing, Eva addresses her estranged husband, Frank, through a series of startingly direct letters. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son became, 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 at 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 the most prosperous country in history. Instead, Lionel Shriver tells a compelling, absorbing, and resonant story with an explosive, haunting ending. She considers motherhood, marriage, family, career—while framing these horrifying tableaus of teenage carnage as metaphors for the larger tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of purpose.
 

About Lionel Shriver

See more books from this Author
Lionel Shriver's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Earlier books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and Checker and the Derailleurs. Her novels have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her journalism has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in London.
 
Published January 1, 2003 by Counterpoint. 416 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for We Need to Talk About Kevin
All: 8 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Above average

The impending disaster is no surprise despite Shriver’s coyly dropped hints.

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Guardian

Excellent
on Jun 09 2010

Few novels are considered classics. Fewer still attain that status within their lifetimes. This, though, is one of them.

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Guardian

Excellent
on Feb 27 2005

The novel is an elegant psychological and philosophical investigation of culpability with a brilliant denouement.

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Guardian

Below average
on Nov 15 2003

Maybe there are books to be written about teenage killers and about motherhood, but this discordant and misguided novel isn't one of them.

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Blog Critics

Excellent
on Mar 29 2006

This is the kind of book that you want to press into all your smart friends' hands, so you can have a conversation about it. That urge and its persistence, are a testament to Shriver's success as a topical, humane author.

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AV Club

Good
on Jul 22 2003

...a thoughtful and deeply disquieting novel about a mother coming to terms with her son's...rampage...

Read Full Review of We Need to Talk About Kevin: ... | See more reviews from AV Club

Pajiba

Good

...a realistic, engaging story that’s bound to leave you with new questions of your own.

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The Atlantic

Good
on Jan 26 2012

The novel is an unflinching look at a set of emotions that are often considered unacceptable for polite conversation...

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Reader Rating for We Need to Talk About Kevin
80%

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Liam Spears 3 Apr 2013

Rated the book as 3.5 out of 5

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