We Need to Talk About Kevin



Title: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Author: Lionel Shriver

Published: The Perseus Books Group, Counterpoint,2003

The Text Publishing Company, 2006 (my copy)


Two years ago, Eva Khatchadourian’s son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker and a popular algebra teacher. Now, in a series of letters to her absent husband, Eva recounts the story of how Kevin came to be Kevin.

Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about both motherhood in general and Kevin in particular. How much is her fault? When did it all start to go wrong?

Or was it, in fact, ever ‘right’ at all?




I am always hesitant to see any movie made from a book that I like – it usually ends badly with me disappointed about the movie, and looking differently at the book. It to taint my opinion – I feel like if I don’t enjoy the movie, I have to question whether I really liked the book. Irrational, yes, but still.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” is a book that I’ve actually read a couple of times (not too many books make that list – there are so many exciting new stories out there!). Luckily, the most recent reading wasn’t that recent – maybe 12 months ago. This means that I can overlook (or more likely – not notice) small differences between the book and the movie.

The Book: Hit me like a ton of bricks. Well, the ending did, anyways. And that’s all the spoiler you’ll find here. We know from the start that Kevin shot up the school. That’s no secret. The book is written in Eva’s letters to Franklin, her husband, in the wake of the shooting. It’s a mix between current thoughts – Eva visiting Kevin in prison, and Eva flashing back and re-visiting Kevin’s entire life, from event to event. My opinion? Creepy kid. Something wrong with him right from the start. But what do you do, when it’s your child? How do you see the total sociopath in your own son? It’s interesting though, Eva always felt this. Franklin doesn’t see it. {side note – I don’t have children. I’m just imagining that it must be incredibly difficult and painful.}

The Movie: The big things were there. The plot wasn’t played with. Obviously to take a 450+ page book and turn it into a 2 hour movie there needs to be some concessions. My opinion is that one of these concessions was the depth of the relationship between Kevin and his sister Celia, and all that he did to her. On the whole, I really quite enjoyed the movie. I thought it was very well cast – Tilda Swinton was the perfect Eva, and that evil little toddler! So good it was almost creepy. I thought they could have developed Franklin’s character a little more, and played more on the wedge that Kevin drove through Eva and Franklin’s relationship. Because of these little intricacies, I would very much recommend you read the book before seeing the movie. You will get the themes out of the film, but you’ll definitely understand them much more fully having read the book.

I thought the book was very well written, and this translated into a very disturbing movie. My friend said it best – “I’ve never been so put off having children”. So there you have it people, this movie is great contraception.

This is a crazy good book club book – we got some great discussion especially with a mix of parents and non parents. My copy had a list of book club questions in the back also, which can be useful.

What is your opinion on books into movies? Any hits or misses that stand out in your memory?


6 thoughts on “We Need to Talk About Kevin

  1. I tried reading this but found it to be so dense and I just couldn’t get into it. And I really wasn’t prepared for HOW it was written, with the letter style. I have heard it’s quite the heavy read!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s