This book is a stray away from my regular reviews as it is a lot more modern rather than a traditional classic (however, I do believe that this novel is a classic in its own right). Futhermore, this novel is not one of love nor marriage, but one of murder and confusion. This book is written in epistolary form from the perspective of Eva, the mother of a school shooter.
The plot of ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ (known hereforwards as WNTTAK) is complicated and fragmented, possibly reflecting the mind of Eva as she learns to cope with what her son has done.
It begins after the murders, and we learn that the recipient of the letters (Eva’s husband Franklin) was killed by Kevin. Eva talks Franklin through her side of life. Eva never felt love for Kevin when he was born, and first realised they would never have a good relationship from the moment he refused to nurse from her. As Kevin gets older he pulls Eva’s hair, squirts her and her belongings with grape juice. Eva thinks there is something dark in Kevin, but Franklin does not see it. She feels isolated.
Kevin wears a nappy until he is 6, and Eva is convinced he does actually know how to use a toilet, but he is purposefully using the nappy as he gets a kick out of watching her have to clean him.
One day, Kevin wrecks his mum’s study. She gets mad and throws him across the room, where he breaks his arm. Eva is worried she will get in trouble, but to her surprise Kevin covers for her. However, this is not a turning point in their relationship, as Kevin keeps getting worse as he gets older. He gets in with the wrong crowd, exposes himself sexually to Eva, and even accuses a teacher as to sexually assaulting him (they didn’t). Franklin still does not see that Kevin is bad.
Eva decides to have a little girl, and she loves her with all of her heart. Celia is beautiful, sweet, and actually loves her mother. However, one day when Kevin is supposed to be watching Celia she has an unfortunate “accident” and loses an eyeball. Eva is unsure about whether or not this is really an accident, but Franklin brushes away her uneasiness and says she is just trying to look for fault.
Finally, we arrive at the day of the murder. Kevin is 16 and shot 9 of his classmates and teachers, and also Franklin and Celia. Kevin has been given a reduced sentence as he is a child, but will be transferred to regular prison when he is an adult.
Skip forward two years, and Eva is visiting Kevin. He admits to Eva that he is scared about going to regular prison, and that he is unsure of why he killed everyone. Eva decides to stop trying to reason Kevin’s attack to help her cope, and rather to love him. She prepares his bedroom for him for when he finally comes back home.
“It’s far less important to me to be liked these days than to be understood.”
“I thought at the time that I couldn’t be horrified anymore, or wounded. I suppose that’s a common conceit, that you’ve already been so damaged that damage itself, in its totality, makes you safe.”
“You can call it innocence, or you can call it gullibility, but Celia made the most common mistake of the good-hearted: she assumed that everyone else was just like her.”
If you haven’t read this book then I am unsure of how much justice my little summary has given it. This 416-page novel is full of so many twists and turns. Written around the time of the Columbine shooting, one that absolutely rocked the world, this material gave a whole new perspective to the horrors of school shootings. After these instances, people would always claim “it was the parents fault”, and Shriver offers a chilling perspective that greys this argument. Did Eva treat Kevin like a psychopathic killer because he was one, or did Kevin become a psychopathic killer because he was treated like one? Shriver puts a spin on the nature vs nurture debate, and the answer is never solidly concluded throughout the novel. Absolutely give this novel a read if you can, or at least watch the fantastic film with the same title (it is very true to the novel, and Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller do the main characters justice). I would also recommend watching a TedTalk by Dylan Klebold’s mother (one of the Columbine shooters, and inspiration for this novel). She gives a very real look at what it is like to live with the knowledge that your son is a mass murderer, and whether or not you can really see the signs. I will link the video below:
Comment below what you guys thought of this novel or review, and let me know if there are any books you want me to look at in the future!
Love from Evie x