Monday, June 29, 2009

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I picked up this one because an author (who shall remain nameless, but if you want to know I’ll let you know – but you are risking something of a spoilery nature – so if you want to risk it email me) said that this book influenced her on writing her newest YA book. In fact, don’t continue reading if you don’t want any spoilers on this book either.

Well. Let me say this book was very well written. However. However, I wanted to throw it against the wall in the exact same way I wanted to throw the “influenced” book against the wall. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Just there aren’t any answers once you finish. It isn’t tied up for you. There is so much left to interpretation. Which makes for suspenseful reading, bated breath, and, of course, the throwing of books against walls. (And in the interest of full disclosure I never actually threw either book, one was a library book, the other borrowed, and one shouldn’t trash things that do not belong to one’s self. I just wanted to do it.)

Anyhow. After reading this book, I was frustrated for an additional reason. It is all about nature vs. nurture. Was Kevin born bad? Was he a product of his mother’s dislike? Is he a psychopath? Or just a confused child? And by the end of the book, we don’t know. Kevin’s mother is certainly a bad mother. They never had a bond. However, Kevin’s dad dotes on him. He gets plenty of love, affection, etc. So I ruled out the lack of maternal affection creating pychopathy. Did lack of maternal affection make him an angry disaffected youth? Certainly. I was actually willing to believe that Kevin was born bad, until the end of the book where Eva (his mom) said that he reached out for her and she felt love for him for the first time. Which just chapped my hide. You can’t just one day develop the ability to feel love after spending your entire life not emoting. So either he was just an angry disaffected youth who always felt love, but did horrendous things or Eva allowed herself to be fooled at the end and he was, as he had always been, a total psycho.

And of course, we only have Eva’s opinion on the subject and she certainly isn’t an unbiased or completely trustworthy narrator. Maybe she beat the crap out of him everyday and just lied to us about it. Who knows? She was certainly unlikeable enough, but I feel reluctant to believe she lied about everything in the story.

I can totally see how this book influenced the recommending author. I picked it up hoping it would shed some additional light on her book. It did on the writing process certainly, but on the content? Alas, it did not. I will have to re-read her book and look for clues and hints. (And in case you are wondering, I LOVED the YA book I’m totally thinking Printz here.)

Gets you thinking anyhow. It would make a fantastic book club book for adults. It totally compells you to seek out other people's opinions on what happened. Which, for the record, seem to be pretty evenly divided.


Jenn H. said...

Pretty sure I know which book you are talking about and the "throw-it-against-the-wall" urge really makes me want to read this one, too.

Patti said...

Jenn, you totally know which book I'm talking about because you lent me the "influenced" book.