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Review: We Need to Talk about Kevin

March 13, 2012

Eva runs a successful business publishing travel guides and is happily married to Franklin.  When it seems that all of their friends have children, they discuss having a baby, and Eva reluctantly agrees.  She doesn’t really embrace motherhood after Kevin is born.  He’s a difficult child from the start and becomes moody and rebellious as he grows older.  After Kevin commits a heinous crime, Eva dutifully visits him in jail and writes letters to Franklin trying to figure out where things went wrong.

I think most people have heard about We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver, since it’s been made into a movie.  I’ve read a lot of good things about the book, so I went in with high expectations and, I have to tell you, this book exceeded them.  I was hooked from the very beginning and had to know what was going to happen next.

It becomes clear very early that Kevin has done something completely horrific.  It also becomes clear that he’s highly intelligent and very manipulative.  Or, is he just misunderstood?  Reading about his antics and his parents’ reactions to them was an emotional roller coaster.  At first, I thought Eva was a piece of work – she seemed to think Kevin was bad from the very start – and later I felt Franklin was the most naive parent to ever walk the face of the Earth. It seemed there was always turmoil with Kevin in the house.

Kevin was a loner and didn’t really fit in with his peers.  He seemed to go out of his way to be different from everyone else.  He wasn’t bullied, though – most of the other kids gave him wide berth, but no one expected him to do what he did.  Even though she wasn’t directly responsible, it’s something Eva has to live with every day.

I found this book to be very emotional and thought provoking,  It brings up many issues, including nurture versus nature, so I think it would make a fabulous book club pick.  Reading Group Guides has come up with some great discussion questions.

I listened to the audio version of We Need to Talk About Kevin – it’s narrated by Collen Marlo and she does a wonderful job.  Her voice was Eva’s in my mind and I hung on her every word.  When I would start listening, it was always hard to stop because I wanted to know what would happen next.  There were a few twists at the end that literally made me gasp out loud.  I think this audiobook was fantastic and highly recommend it.

Review copy provided by Harper Collins.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
61 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2012 4:09 am

    I keep meaning to read this one. I have heard such good things about it.

  2. March 13, 2012 5:33 am

    This is currently en route to me! I finally decided to order it online after adding it to my ‘Books to Read in 2012’ list.

  3. March 13, 2012 5:38 am

    I like the bit about the nurture vs nature part. Having worked throughout in the orphanage field this is one topic I like to hear both sides of the coin.

  4. March 13, 2012 6:42 am

    Chalk up another on my list to read. Although the subject matter is not my favorite I’m sure it sucks you in. As a mother it disturbs me….thanks for the info!

  5. March 13, 2012 6:50 am

    This is one of those books where I donated the hardcover unread, but after reading your review and others, maybe I should pick up the audio from the library — well done Kathy.

  6. March 13, 2012 6:51 am

    Most children who are bullied in school tend to suppress their anger until it finally spills over. These children are not necessarily bad, but troubled and can be helped by mental health professionals.
    Perhaps, Kevin’s character might have improved if his parents got him help.

  7. March 13, 2012 6:57 am

    I have been meaning to read this for some time, especially with the movie out soon. I’ve been debating on the audio or reading it, and I’m leaning more towards the audio now!

  8. March 13, 2012 7:48 am

    This was one of those books that was SO good, but so disturbing. It made my stomach hurt. I can’t imagine how it would translate to audio, but in thinking about it, it would have been a better solution for me. I just had such a horrible time getting through this book because it was so painful. I have heard, BTW, that the movie was not well-received. I guess it would be hard to really nail down something that is so introspective.

  9. March 13, 2012 7:50 am

    I think I must be the last person to read this one…but I’ve heard mixed things about the book.

  10. March 13, 2012 8:07 am

    I have this one on my TBR list, but just haven’t gotten around to reading it. Your review definitely reminds me that I need to pick it up, because it is a book that should be read. I’m definitely looking forward to it even more now. Thanks!

  11. March 13, 2012 8:34 am

    Your review has reminded me that I put this book is on my list quite a while ago. I’ll have to move it up higher!

  12. March 13, 2012 8:51 am

    I haven’t heard of this – sounds like it would be good for a book club discussion.

  13. March 13, 2012 9:01 am

    I have this one, but I haven’t read it yet. I think i’ll need to be in the mood for this one. I’m really glad that you enjoyed it.

  14. kaye permalink
    March 13, 2012 9:07 am

    That whole nature vs nurture debate is quite intriguing. Not sure it’s so cut and dried. I’ve seen families where the kids are like night and day, behavior wise, and they were brought up exactly the same. Glad you enjoyed the book.

  15. March 13, 2012 9:16 am

    This book was so disturbing to me. You just never think something like this could happen in your life.

  16. March 13, 2012 9:17 am

    I’ve seen this one making the rounds and it sounds very good. It’s on my wish list. Great review 🙂

  17. March 13, 2012 10:18 am

    As sad as this book was…I loved it…did you read Defending Jacob?
    That is even more thought provoking…

  18. March 13, 2012 10:24 am

    This is one of my most favorite books, but like Sandy said, it was just so difficult to read. It was amazingly written, but the subject matter, and those twists really socked me in the gut. I always recommend this book to everyone I know who reads, but with the warning that it’s pretty disturbing. I loved your review because you captured the brilliance of the book along with the dark power of it. So glad that you liked this one!

  19. March 13, 2012 10:26 am

    I think this must be very scary for moms to read!

  20. March 13, 2012 11:10 am

    I hvan’t heard anything about this one but it shounds good. I’m going to look into it. Thanks for sharing!!

  21. March 13, 2012 11:11 am

    For some reason, I get Lionel Shriver, and this book in particular, confused with that author who wrote about his drug addiction or whatever and then came out on Oprah and said that it was all a hoax. Clearly, the two are VERY different and I should get my facts straight.

  22. March 13, 2012 11:31 am

    I have this one on the way to me, along with the movie. I know it’s not going to be an easy read or watch but I’m looking forward to them both.

  23. March 13, 2012 11:40 am

    If the trailer for the movie is any indication then I can see why the book would be difficult to read. I’m actually really interested in reading this one and seeing how the author handles such a dark idea.

  24. March 13, 2012 11:43 am

    It definitely is one of those books that has you gasping at the end. It took me about 100 pages to get invested in the story, and the only reason I continued was because it was a book club read. But I’m glad I stuck with it because this book was excellent and blew me away. It really gets you thinking.

  25. March 13, 2012 11:58 am

    I’m drawn to this book like I’m drawn to a train wreck. I know I shouldn’t (it will haunt me) but I’m oddly fascinated. Great review.

  26. March 13, 2012 12:13 pm

    This is high on my TBR list, as I just finished Defending Jacob, which is also about parents’ reactions to their child being accused of a terrible crime. It’s sort of a theme this month, although not by design. It sounds terrific.

  27. March 13, 2012 12:37 pm

    I read this book a few years ago, very quickly. While I was haunted reading it, I had to know what happened. I’m glad you liked it so much.

    I’m not sure I can watch the movie though…

  28. March 13, 2012 1:18 pm

    Kathy, this sounds incredibly thought-provoking. I will probably read this and/or see the movie. Very nice review!

  29. March 13, 2012 1:38 pm

    I still haven’t read this one but would really like to at some point.

  30. Sim permalink
    March 13, 2012 3:40 pm

    Really well said! It is an absolute roller coaster ride emotionally. I Found it very unsettling but totally compelling. can’t wait to see Tilda Swinton as Eva.

  31. March 13, 2012 3:56 pm

    I really want to read this one before the movie comes out – it does sound like a tremendously emotional read. I read Columbine by Dave Cullen based on Jenners review and recommendation – I wonder how closely/loosely We Need to Talk About Kevin is to what those parents experienced. I also wonder every time I see the book if the Columbine parents were interviewed – I’ve got way too many credits at Audible so I think I’ll take your recommendation and download this one today.

    • Sim permalink
      March 13, 2012 9:02 pm

      Thw movie is currently playing in a small amount of select theatres around the country. If you want to see it in the theatre vs on DVD you might want to see if it’s playing anywhere near you. Closest to me is 60 miles away!

  32. March 13, 2012 4:56 pm

    I think this one would be too much for me

  33. March 13, 2012 4:57 pm

    It has been a movie? I missed that too…
    It sounds very interesting.

  34. March 13, 2012 5:21 pm

    When my book club shot it down, I asked some other bloggers if they wanted to read it with me in April (informally). So I will be reading this over Spring Break (bad timing on my part!).

  35. March 13, 2012 5:34 pm

    I compare the reading experience of reading this book to pulling off a bandaid. For me, I could only read 20 or so pages a day, it was just so painful. But one of my friends couldn’t put it down. She had to pull the bandaid off quickly. Both of us thought it was a stunning book and would make a wonderful book club selection but we just cannot make our book club pick it up.

  36. March 13, 2012 6:22 pm

    I;ve heard so much about this novel, We Have To Talk About Kevin. After your review I really want to read it. I like to read a book before seeing the movie. This one definitely goes on my TBR list. Really enjoyed reading this review.

  37. March 13, 2012 7:44 pm

    I’ve been meaning to read this ever since the first rave review of it that I read (which seems like ages ago). Seeing your review is a good reminder for me to track down a copy.

  38. March 13, 2012 8:20 pm

    I really loved this book. Not only is the writing fantastic, but the whole book is so very ambiguous and ambivalent throughout – much as I’d imagine a parent to such a child might feel. It’s gripping, it’s disturbing, it’s a wonderful read.

  39. March 13, 2012 8:24 pm

    I read this a few years back and had the same reaction as you did. I didn’t see the movie yet but I’m curious about it. It was hard for me to imagine how they would pull it off.

  40. March 13, 2012 10:12 pm

    Wonderful review, Kathy – it reminded me of why I found this book so brilliantly written but extremely disturbing at the same time.

  41. March 13, 2012 11:15 pm

    This is a book I’ve really been wanting to read but at the same time have been terrified to because I’ve heard such horrific things about it. I think I need to just give in and read it. So I’m glad to hear you liked it and it exceeded your expectations!

  42. March 14, 2012 1:24 am

    I love addictive audios like this that you don’t want to put down. The story sounds really emotional and gripping. Fantastic review, Kathy.

  43. March 14, 2012 10:46 am

    With all the good reviews I’ve heard about this one I picked it up a while back. I hope to have a chance to read it soon. I think I might have seen the audio at my library though so maybe I’ll give it a listen.

  44. March 14, 2012 2:38 pm

    This is a book I’ve been curious about for awhile. When I heard it was a movie, I started thinking about it even more…I really need to get my hands on a copy, then watch the film. I hear Kevin is played by Ezra Miller, who I really enjoy.

    Glad it was an interesting novel. I love books like these that make you think.

  45. March 14, 2012 2:55 pm

    I am so excited you read this, this was the #1 book that out of all bloggers I thought you would love and you did, yaaaay. Did you love all the words used also, lol. That drove me crazy but I think you would have enjoyed. Not sure if you would pick them up from audio as you would the text.

    So glad you read this Kathy. I can’t wait for the movie now.

  46. March 14, 2012 8:10 pm

    I’ve been thinking about suggesting this one to my book club…after reading your review I am definitely going to do that. I’m glad you liked it Kathy.

  47. March 14, 2012 9:54 pm

    I read this years ago with my book club and for the most part they really disliked it but i thought it was a deep through provoking read. I heard there is a movie coming out and now I would like to try it on audio after you have said how good that is!

  48. March 14, 2012 10:00 pm

    This book would be too emotional for me, especially as a parent, but I could see that it could be suspenseful too. It’s easy to feel guilt when one is parenting. I think I prefer a more uplifting read.

  49. March 15, 2012 9:06 am

    I read this quite a few years ago. I remember it being a compelling page turner. The end was gasp worthy- glad you enjoyed it too.

  50. March 15, 2012 3:07 pm

    Lots of comments here… I read it when I first started blogging. Was one of the first books recommended tho that might not be the correct word. More like “I need somebody to read this so I can discuss with someone!”

    I think Tilda is an awesome choice as the mom. yikes.

    My bookclub is reading it right now and so I am NOT re-reading. I think I will remember enough for discussion. I will go see the movie but I don’t think I really want to. Compelled, rather.

  51. March 16, 2012 2:03 pm

    I’ve been a little afraid of this on audio, but now I’m reconsidering. I might just have to listen!

  52. March 16, 2012 11:06 pm

    This sounds emotionally exhausting and I’m not sure I’m up to it; but if I decide to go for it, I think Coleen Marlo will be the way to go 🙂

  53. March 17, 2012 11:55 pm

    I’ve heard of this one but didn’t know much about it. Adding it to my wish list.

  54. March 18, 2012 10:26 am

    I’ve been seeing more and more of this book out there lately… maybe I’ll pick up the audio. Thanks for the review; I always like to know how the narrator is on an audiobook before I commit!

  55. March 19, 2012 2:21 am

    I listened to the audiobook of this too! J’adored.

  56. stacijoreads permalink
    March 19, 2012 9:49 pm

    I loved this book and you’re right it would make a fantastic book club discussion read!!!!

  57. boardinginmyforties permalink
    March 21, 2012 8:40 pm

    I really liked this one too. That twist at the end was one that I really didn’t see coming!

  58. March 23, 2012 8:20 am

    I do not know if we listened to the same narrator, but I sure did not like my version. I wish I read it instead. It was still a very good book though. I don’t remember them now, but in my post of this book I questioned if anybody laughed at some of Kevin’s responses? Did you? Do you have any idea what I may be referring to?

  59. March 23, 2012 4:04 pm

    Egads – this would probably put me over the edge – I’ll have to check this out in about ten years!

  60. MonieG permalink
    March 31, 2012 1:06 am

    I just finished listening to this on audio because of your review. So amazing! I was shocked by the ending and am dying to see how it translates to a movie. Thanks again for your review.

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