We Need to Talk About Kevin — a true American horror story

I’ve had to wait a while between finishing this novel and attempting any sort of review. Ultimately, I think this is a great book, but it took me almost 2/3 of the book to reach that conclusion.

It’s DARK…

I knew it wouldn’t be “light reading” given that the subject of a school massacre is central to the plot, but I didn’t quite expect the deep despair that permeates this book. I would read 20 pages and simply have to put it down. Passages like…

In truth we are bigger, greedier versions of the same eating, shitting, rutting ruck, hell-bent on disguising from somebody, if only from a three-year-old, that pretty much all we do is eat and shit and rut. The secret is there is no secret. that is what we really wish to keep from our kids, and it’s suppression is the true collusion of adulthood…”

…may contain some true grain of truth, but I just didn’t want to be stuck there with Shriver.

When it comes down to it, Kevin’s actions and his mother’s reactions struck a real chord of fear in me. Of course I’m afraid one of my sons might do “something unforgivable.” It’s my worst nightmare. So to read about that, was discomforting.

I had trouble empathizing…

Kevin’s mother Eva tells the entire story through a series of letters to her husband, Kevin’s father. These letters take the tone of confession, but I couldn’t bring myself to like Eva. She hates her son and I just can’t find a place in my mind or heart for that .

“…You can only subject people to anguish who have a conscience. You can only punish people who have hopes to frustrate or attachments to sever; who worry what you think of them. You can really only punish people who are already a little bit good.”

I also wanted to feel empathy for Kevin despite his deeds, but the epistolary style only allows us t know him through his mother’s eyes.

But then…

Suddenly 200 pages into the book, I was hooked. I wanted, maybe needed, to understand the factors involved and the (gruesome) details of the massacre itself. I won’t try and convince you that it gets and brighter, but I did develop some sympathy for Eva. In a million years, with all the confessions and everything I knew, I still didn’t see the end coming. That is a wholly satisfying feeling when I read.

“Liked” is not the right word to describe my reaction to the book since it left me feeling sick with horror and fear, but it deserves my four star rating. It’s a book I’ll never forget.

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12 thoughts on “We Need to Talk About Kevin — a true American horror story

  1. I am so glad that you read and reviewed Kevin. I read it in February and it is still haunting me. Dark doesn’t even begin to address the way this story is told and the fears it evokes, especially in parent-readers. I, like you, plodded through the first 200 pages and then sped lightening fast through the rest. This is one realistically scary book. Not realistic, let’s hope. Just realistically scary. Have you watched the movie? Do it. And then we should get coffee for further discussion!

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  2. This book really terrified me! Like to the point of making myself sick. I totally agree that you can’t really “like ” this book… 🙂

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  3. “I won’t try and convince you that it gets and brighter, but I did develop some sympathy for Eva. In a million years, with all the confessions and everything I knew, I still didn’t see the end coming.”

    I never guessed the ending either, and it made me feel bad about my comment on Goodreads where I said she thinks we give a crap. As my youngest son always tells me, “It’s only a book,” but I tend to think about how I would feel if I was in the situation I am reading about. I never cared for Eva either, but I did feel sympathy at the end. It would be so hard for a mother to go through everything she endured and then to have to live out her life wondering if she would have been a more caring mother to Kevin, would things have turned out differently.

    I usually watch movies after reading the book, and I planned to watch this one before I read it, but now I’m not quite so sure. I might have to wait for summer break next year, because one of my worst fears is that this will happen at our school. 😦

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    • Actually, I think your change of heart is a great compliment to the author. She did a great job of turning our heads and hearts around. And, I’m with you and not seeing the movie right away. i’m too freaked out as it is.

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