The school shootings that ran rampant through the 1990s had everyone shocked and in fear of sending their kids to school. Throughout the shootings, culminating in Columbine, one thing probably went through everyoneís minds: What were these kidsí parents like? Itís human nature to assume that children who go bad are helped along by cruel or indifferent parents. Why do we think this? Because if we let our minds consider the alternative, that some kids are just born bad, then we must be aware of the frightening fact that it could happen to us.
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver explores this very idea through a source closer to the subject than any otheróthe mother of a boy who shot seven of his classmates during a rampage in the school gym. Although the book is fictional, the subject matter is all too real, and this makes it an exceptionally chilling read.
Eva Khatchadourian explores her feeling about her son Kevinís actions through a series of letters to her estranged husband, Franklin. Although this might seem like a limiting way to go about a book of this scope, it actually works quite well. Through Evaís eyes, we watch the excruciating formative years of an evil child who convinces his gullible father that heís a sweet boy, but whose mother knows better. Evaís dislike of her cold little boy just fuels his cruel streak, slowly escalating his violent nature as he grows older.
The heartbreaking part of the novel comes when Eva and Franklin have a second child, the incredibly naÔve and trusting Celia, who thinks her brother is the greatest person on earth. The foreshadowing of what happens to Celia, and to the entire family, is almost unbearable to read because Shriver does such an excellent job of painting a picture of a family whose members are far from perfect but who certainly donít deserve what will happen to them. An air of bleak despair settles over the entire novel, reflecting Evaís mood as she writes to her beloved Franklin.
If you plan to pick up this novel, be forewarned: it is not light, it will not give you faith in humanity and it will probably scare you more than any horror novel youíve ever read. Why? Because what happened to Evaís family could easily happen to any family in America. With her eye for detail and talent for creating a chilling, desperate atmosphere, Lionel Shriver has penned a novel that will stay with you long after youíve read the last chapter.