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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.

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CUSTOMER REVIEWS

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Average rating
4.1 / 5
Well written and emotionally charged!
November 11th, 2014
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!
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
Hated it
November 1st, 2014
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.
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1 review
Quietly terrifying
July 17th, 2014
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.
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1 review
January 29th, 2014
Hard to get started, but persevere it is intriguing, and startling, and thought provoking. Well worth staying with it.
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1 review
January 29th, 2014
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.
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1 review
January 28th, 2014
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.
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1 review
January 28th, 2014
was a very good read! would recommend it.
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1 review
January 28th, 2014
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.
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1 review
2 of 2 people found this helpful
January 27th, 2014
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.
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1 review
January 25th, 2014
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.
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1 review
January 24th, 2014
Amazing book. I listened to it ..worked really well as an audio book. Didn't know much about it which helped
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1 review
January 24th, 2014
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.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
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.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
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!
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1 review
Heart breaking
March 27th, 2013
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.
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1 review

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