We Need to Talk About Kevinby Lionel Shriver.
Other elements: parenting, marriage, children, psychopaths, motherhood, school shootings.
Read it: if you enjoy really chillingly brilliant characters. If you’re not prone to nightmares.
Overall rating: 9.25/10
“Eva 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, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.”
This book is awesome. You know from the very beginning what the major event at the end of the book is going to be – Kevin’s murderous rampage – but seeing him grow up through his mother’s eyes is fascinating and terrifying. The author also manages the impressive feat of telling you about the big event at the end of the story right from the beginning but keeping you interested and surprising you all along the way.
Shriver keeps Kevin’s story feeling relevant by weaving in details of actual fact – for example, the way Kevin disdainfully discusses the details of real school shootings like he’s a professional dissecting a colleague’s work.Kevin himself is terrifying. He’s also creative. As someone who is a really big fan of the TV show Criminal Minds, I can tell you there is such a thing as a stereotypical teenage psychopath. From his hobbies to his clothing choices, Kevin is anything but a stereotype. He also seems to be aware of the stereotypes he could fall into, and goes to some effort to avoid being cliché. I thought that was a marvelous touch.
Eva, Kevin’s mother, is really interesting. She isn’t particularly likable but she feels real. She’s snobby and fallible and makes a few really reprehensible choices. Overall, she’s human and believable. Her arc over the length of the book is stunningly well accomplished. I actually think her personal growth by the end of the novel is one of the best examples of subtle but significant character development I’ve ever encountered. Her relationship with Kevin is beyond fascinating.
My only complaint is that the book is a little bit slow getting started. The flashbacks really take their time, and I occasionally found myself wishing there was a bit less of the really early stuff – but it was worth it by the time I got to the end and I knew so much about the characters.
If you read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (or read my review of Gone Girl and were intrigued) definitely read this book. It’s the same kind of thing, but even better.