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We Need to Talk about Kevin

By Lionel Shriver

Published 29th April 2010

OK - This is another psychological thriller, so be prepared for a white knuckle ride!

What’s it about?  - 3 days before his 16th birthday, Kevin commits a horrific crime. With a crossbow and arrows, he conducts a spine-chilling mass murder. 

What can you say about the story telling? - The story is told retrospectively by Kevin’s mother, Eva, via a series of letters written to her husband. Events unfold slowly, with much detail and I could hardly believe what I was reading.  Although a fiction book, it was inspired by a series of shootings in American schools. 

What did you think of the characterisation? - Very strong characters. Eva wrestled compassionately with her role as Kevin’s mother, looking for answers – why, why, why – does your child become a teenage murderer? As a mother myself, I felt her anguish, especially  as she seemed a first class mother. Kevin was a very unusual child from birth. We read the details of his abrasive, un-loveable childhood, waiting for Mother Nature to step in and his personality to change for the better. It never does. 

The contrast in parenting skills between Eva, and her husband Franklin was remarkable and consistent. 

What was good about reading this book? – I found it mesmerising.  Kevin’s personality traits are continuously abhorrent. I wondered what on earth would happen next. I felt great sympathy for his mother who never stopped trying to create a bond with her son. Even when visiting him in prison.

What didn’t you like?  - I thought Lionel Shriver wrote with excellent style. Her prose and language was absolutely first class. There were however times when I was hungry for action and wanted to read on quickly to the next incident. (It’s my personality – I just like to get things done!) Some might say the book was slow, but I think this helped build the tension.

How did reading the book make you feel? - Overwhelmingly sad. The biggest question from the book - is whether Kevin was born bad, or whether he did what he did somehow because of his upbringing?  Eva narrates the story retrospectively the way she remembers it. Inevitably, if the story was told by somebody else, we might see a different picture (- but I find this hard to believe.)

Kevin planned this murder meticulously. He also committed his crime deliberately, just before his 16th birthday so he would be tried and sentenced as a juvenile. In the USA this means he would not serve more than 10 years in jail. He would be freed at 26, a young man, with a psychopathy, and surely a high risk or further offences.

Would you recommend this book? – Yes. The book tackles the shocking issue, of teenage murder. It’s gripping, it’s tantalising, and almost so horrific towards the end it takes extra reserve to turn the pages.

Daisy Mae x x

5 out of 5 daisies!

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