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Publisher's Summary

Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of a boy who ends up murdering 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 16th 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.

©2003 Lionel Shriver (P)2012 HarperCollinsPublishers

Critic Reviews

“Shriver handles this material, with its potential for cheap sentiment and soap opera plot, with rare skill and sense.” ( Newark Star Ledger)
“A slow, magnetic descent into hell that is as fascinating as it is disturbing.” ( Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“Powerful [and] harrowing.” ( Entertainment Weekly)

What listeners say about We Need to Talk About Kevin

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A smart, chilling story. Told in a very unique way

It took me a while to get used to the fact that this story was being told through letters, which the mother had written. At first I thought, "How could this possibly work?" But, it does. By the end, it all comes together as to why the story is being told through letters. It kept my attention the whole time. If you want a chilling, psychological disections of a family "blessed" with a psychopath for a son, then you'll LOVE this book.

Narrarator was excellent. I'm sure I'm not the first person on here to say this, but I now have ZERO desire to see this as a movie. There's no way it could live up to the book. Very well done!

46 people found this helpful

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Complex and Tragic Pseudo-autobiography

Probably one of the most cleverly-written books I have ever read. The author weaves a tapestry so fine that the reader becomes more an observer who can't help identifying with the protagonist or questioning her actions, lack of action, and reactions.
The exploration of family dynamics is brilliant and resonates

The story explores the frustrations of having a reasonably bright but completely puzzling child - one with enough differences to cause concern - but the perception is not shared by his father, which naturally leads the mother to question her own observations.

In a series of letters to her husband, the description of life with her family is laid bare - leading the reader through a series of events which collectively point to disaster. The problems appears to be ones which the family can not solve because they are not so serious that they could be attributed to a major defect in the son.

Apart from the background of the mother who, in this book, is extremely literate and her 'tone', initially, somewhat condescending, the reader soon realizes that this 'tone' is perhaps more defensive than otherwise. This tale could (and does) occur in far too many families - perhaps it may save some.

An amazing story which is entirely plausible.



36 people found this helpful

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great but...

by the end of this book I was glad that I had read it. However, it is very hard to get into. The first maybe 2 hours or so glaringly boring I almost put it down multiple times. stick with it

11 people found this helpful

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  • MJ
  • 12-30-11

A Novel Worth Talking About

If you could sum up We Need to Talk About Kevin in three words, what would they be?

Chilling, engrossing, real.

What was one of the most memorable moments of We Need to Talk About Kevin?

There were so many exquisitely detailed moments that--forced to pick just one--I'm going to cheat a bit and choose a recurring theme, that of Eva revisiting again and again the birth of her son, and the emotions it did and did not stir in her. But there are many other situations in this story equally as memorable.

Which character ??? as performed by Coleen Marlo ??? was your favorite?

It has to be Eva, the narrator. Marlo's characterization never faltered--pitch-perfect throughout.

If you could take any character from We Need to Talk About Kevin out to dinner, who would it be and why?

I'd take Kevin, for all the same reasons Eva took him to dinner.

Any additional comments?

A compelling listen, one I'll listen to again at least once, and probably more. So richly textured that I'm not certain they'll be able to do it justice with a two hour movie.

31 people found this helpful

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Still stunned, a week later.

After listening to this book I felt as if I had been hit by a truck. I could not write a review. I had to just let it 'sit'. Although I gave it 5 stars all the way I am not at all sure that I liked it. The composition and structure was brilliant BUT it was the story of a nightmare of a child who turned into something that was something short of primal.

Will I ever listen or read it again. No way, never. Would I recommend it so my friends? I would certainly discuss it with them but would let them know that it was so frightening because it was so realistic. These cases happen and because of that it scared me.

Lionel Shriver certainly knows how to hit a nerve and you cannot fault him for that. Coleen Marlo gives us a brilliant performance that made it even more eerie.

For those who like to scared out of their wits then this one is for you. You will not be disappointed.

9 people found this helpful

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We DO need to talk about Kevin!

First off let me say that Ms. Marlo's performance was the best I've heard from a narrator since I've been listening to books. She was perfect. I don't use that term often either! Listen and you will see. She had the same energy/tone/personality in the final sentence as she had in the opening one. She WAS this boy's Mother! I felt the beginning was a bit slow, but as usual, necessary. I found myself in the middle of the book wanting to go find this little bastard myself and wring his neck! Actually, that feeling never really subsided... This tale was wonderfully told, and it left me with that desired feeling of wanting to look further into Lionel Shriver's other works. Has me recommending it to other Audible listeners I know and don't personally know with this review. And finally, it has me telling those I know that don't read all about it. What more could I have asked for with my one measly credit?!. If you're interested in this book enough to be reading my review I'm willing to bet you're going to enjoy it. Just hit "confirm" and ready yourself to start looking at every other little kid sideways! Lol.

8 people found this helpful

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Stick with it

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

After the first hour or so, i had just about given up on this one, but i'm glad i didn't! I saw the other good reviews and thought it must get better and better it did get! An exciting story of a mother and her son. Is it nature or nurture that develops children's personalities? Stick with it!

17 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Compelling character study

Oh, I've been waiting to write this review. This book grabbed hold of me and did not let go until the very end. I could write an essay about some of the subtleties in the characters here; perhaps even a book, but I'll stick to some of the basics.

Kevin is not a happy child. From the beginning, he seems to resent not only his distant mother and overweening father, but life in general. As Shriver shows us the progression of Kevin's life in tandem with a growing understanding of his mother, Eva, the parallels between the two become ever clearer. The two enter into a war of sorts, a battle of strong wills for not only Kevin's destiny but the destiny of the family itself. Kevin's escalating, increasingly unspeakable acts provide the impetus that drives the story forward, but the plot is almost incidental to this book. I stress almost, because a sole judgment of the plot misses the elements that make this book so extraordinary.

It's all about theme and character. Yes, the central question of this book seems to be about whether a killer is born or created, ultimately demurring on the answer itself, but such a facile analysis misses the layers of complexity that Shriver weaves in attempting to answer that question. More than once Shriver intimates that Eva and her son are not so dissimilar; the key to understanding this is in a passage where Eva states that women internalize their rage while men visit it upon the world. Eva is an angry, rage-filled woman with a fury very much the equal of her son's fury, she just expresses it in a different manner, though sometimes we see the equal of Kevin's expressions, such as when she rails against the mundane qualities of everyday life.

Kevin's father Franklin is an ineffectual man who lives in a constant haze of denial. It becomes clear that he attempts to plaster the world's disappointments and flaws over with rose-colored cellophane, seeing everything - save for his wife's increasing fear of and frustration with their son - as benign. It's little wonder that Kevin's fury toward him is even stronger than his anger toward his mother. He doesn't even hide that rage particularly well, but his father misses the insincerity time and time again, until it's too late.

The theme here is a child who may have been born damaged in some emotional capacity but who never receives the attention that he may have needed to overcome that issue. Both parents were far too focused on their own needs, projecting their wants and insecurities onto the damaged child. Make no mistake, though, that Kevin is also a monster, and the only true innocent in this whole Greek tragedy is the daughter Celia, who ends up getting far worse than she ever deserved.

I hated just about all of the characters on some primal level, but I couldn't look away. The whole thing formed such a perfect storm of dysfunctional family dynamics and maladaptive psychology that it's hard to imagine it ending in any other way. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Could not put it down

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, this book was the most captivating I have listened to on Audble. So many twists and turns that I was finding myself wanting to listen for just ten more minutes each time.

What other book might you compare We Need to Talk About Kevin to and why?

This book is definitely a thriller- I would compare it to House of Sand and Fog. You know the approximate ending but not how you get there.

Which scene was your favorite?

The scene where Eva admits how she finally got Kevin to start using the toilet. I can feel her desperation and horror at her own behavior.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes and no, I always wanted to listen to a little more. But on the other hand, there are so many scenes and revelations that I had to digest that sometime I just took a little time to think about the book before moving on.

5 people found this helpful

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Alarming, yet hard to put down

The author kept me intrigued because it was coming from the point of view of the mother of a killer. It takes you from the birth of her child to a sad and gripping climactic ending through her letter writings. Throughout the book you feel the bond or love? of a mother. It seems that Kevin's mother was the only person that he related to..... in the end. I think all mothers will be able to understand and appreciate this bond.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Margie
  • 06-24-20

Really bad

Told through a series of letters, this is not really about Kevin at all... and that’s all I wanted to read about! Didn’t like the mom/main character. Rubbish

1 person found this helpful