15 reviews

We Need to Talk about Kevin
by Lionel Shriver

Published: 2003
Hardcover : 0 pages
42 members reading this now
88 clubs reading this now
31 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 14 of 15 members
Focusing on a boy who kills seven of his fellow students, Shriver tells a resonant story while framing the horrifying tableaux of teenage carnage as metaphors for the larger tragedy--the tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of ...
No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to


Focusing on a boy who kills seven of his fellow students, Shriver tells a resonant story while framing the horrifying tableaux of teenage carnage as metaphors for the larger tragedy--the tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of purpose.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions from the Publisher's Reading Guide:

1. Non-maternal, ambivalent mothers are one of the last taboos -- and Eva is a prime example. Were her motives for having a baby entirely selfish? And if so, how much can that have factored into the outcome of an abnormally difficult baby and apathetic child? In contrast to Kevin, Celia was loving, needy and sweet -- and her mother's favorite, if not her father's. By the very end of the novel, has Eva's love for Kevin, or at least her primitive loyalty to him, finally become unconditional? How does this fit in with the feminist ideal of motherhood?

2. Is Eva's view of Kevin colored by her ambivalence about motherhood in general, or perhaps by hindsight knowledge of his eventual violence? Is Eva responsible for creating a child she sees as a monster, or was he a monster all along?

3. Eva's tone changes throughout the course of her letter-writing. She is in turns angry, frustrated and mystified. Could you describe Eva as a loving mother -- in deed if not in thought? Was Kevin overly indulged by a parenting style that let him potty train and learn at his own pace?

4. Did the inclusion of a child into Eva and Franklin's stable, loving relationship cause the rift between them? Did the fact of a child threaten their marriage? How was Kevin perceived as a threat by Eva from conception? What expectations did Eva have of motherhood and how did she meet the reality of it? Was Franklin unsupportive of Eva?

5. The irony of Eva having read Robin Hood to an ailing, needy Kevin at a time of almost shocking mother-son bonding is played out in the way Kevin massacred his fellow students and the teacher who took an interest in him. Since it is Eva who connects Kevin's fevered state with her recollection of his unusual interest in anything whatsoever, is it possible that Kevin's methods were meant to figuratively slay his mother?

6. After Eva throws Kevin across the room, she takes him to the hospital. She confesses later on to Franklin, "However much I deserved rebuke, I still preferred the slow burn of private self-excoriation to the hot lash of public reproof." Are Eva's letters to Franklin her form of self-excoriation, though she is suffering public reproof as the mother of a mass murderer?

7. Does Eva feel responsible for Kevin's series of nasty deeds and childhood "pranks?" Does she think she could have prevented any of it? Does she come to realize why Kevin would harm other children or does she give up trying to understand? How can we sympathize with a mother and father who saw all the warning signs but failed to stop the violence?

8. Given that the story is told from Eva's perspective only, can she be trusted as reliable? How do you think Franklin's version of events would have differed? Might Eva choose to portray Kevin in childhood as more wicked than he really was, if only to make her seem less culpable for his crimes as a teenager?

9. What were Eva's reasons for having a second child? Did Franklin forgive her for the deception? Was she repentant? How closely were her expectations met and was she gratified? How did Franklin's attitude toward Kevin and Celia differ?

10. Toward the end of the novel, it is revealed that Kevin has more complicated feelings about his mother and some of the 9 people he murdered. This gives us a hint as to why he might have carefully planned and carried out Thursday. Does he seem pathetic or more deserving of compassion because he may have had a motive, after all?

11. At the conclusion of the novel, did you find Eva sympathetic in a way you may not have initially? Do you think Eva has sympathy and forgiveness for herself? Is she able to accept Kevin, and to see his personality as, however uncomfortably, akin to her own?

Suggested by Members

Can a person be born evil?
Why does Kevin treat Eva the way he does?
by nanovsky (see profile) 04/19/17

Discuss the influence of nature and nurture.
by surveypowell4 (see profile) 09/20/13

Is it the mother's fault? Did you ever have feelings as inadequacy as a mother. Are there just bad seeds?
Why did Eva feel compelled to stay in the same town and visit her son? Is motherhood never done, despite what our children do? Does unconditional love exist? Note the description of the house when Eva recounts the purchase - the house on Zoloft. How did E
va's upbringing affect her life as an adult? What do think Franklin thought when Kevin turned the crossbow to him?
by b4jsander (see profile) 09/10/10

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Carla M. (see profile) 01/31/21

by Heather A. (see profile) 11/12/20

by ELIZABETH V. (see profile) 05/04/20

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN is not what I was expecting. I expected a book about a teenager who committed a mass school shooting. But WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN is also about life with an e... (read more)

by Kimberly B. (see profile) 05/20/19

by Kirstin L. (see profile) 04/17/19

by Jo W. (see profile) 03/17/19

Aaargh, crazy!

by Steve S. (see profile) 03/07/19

by Susan K. (see profile) 01/27/19

by Debbie L. (see profile) 11/25/18

by Therese A. (see profile) 04/12/18

Rate this book
Remember me

Now serving over 80,000 book clubs & ready to welcome yours. Join us and get the Top Book Club Picks of 2022 (so far).



Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...