We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, is a disturbing slice of the reality that is mass killings. Kevin is seventeen and in juvenile prison because he killed a group of fellow students and his teacher at school. We see the events leading up to this through letters written by his mother, Eva, to her husband and Kevin’s father, Franklin.
From birth, all does not seem quite right with Kevin and unfortunately, Eva is the only one who recognises that although her son is abnormally clever, there is a malicious streak lurking inside him that does not fade as he gets older. To the rest of the world, he is average. Extremely average. Average to the point that he would not register on your radar if you were to walk past him in the street. But the averageness is merely an act – he is average on purpose to attract little attention to himself. He is a B student on purpose – not because that’s all he can achieve. The mindset of Kevin is frightening. It disturbs me that there could actually someone out there like that – a cold person who does not form emotional attachments to ANYTHING, and does things just because he can and he feels like it.
The writing style itself is great and I think that being written in the form of a personal reflection, is far more realistic and interesting than if it had been written in the third person, or if it had simply been written as a narrative of a series of events. It’s not often that we thing at great length about the families of the people who commit these crimes. The subject matter is one that is very relevant at this point in time. Just yesterday I read about a shooting in a shopping centre in Portland, Oregon. Frequently throughout the book, other school and office mass shootings are mentioned and while the particular shooting this story may be fictional, the other mentioned are not. They are entirely real.
This book really got me thinking about why these things happen. I am confident that it is not because guns are so easy to get a hold of. To me it is apparent that these (mostly) young men have a problem with determining where to draw the line. This compulsive act can be over the smallest things and is completely unpredictable. The only pattern that these events follow, is that in most cases, the perpetrator has had something happen in their life that for one reason or another, has deeply affected them. In reality it could be anyone. We all have some problem or other, but not not all of us will pick up a weapon and kill a bunch of people. How can we prevent something that we can’t tell is coming? The short answer – we can’t. If it’s not guns that are being used to inflict high casualties, it will be something else. If these people will go so far as to think about killing multiple people, then they will simply not do it because they can’t get their hands on a gun. There is something going on in their minds that is telling them that this is the only way to fix whatever is wrong, though the stark reality is, is that it will just make things worse for them.
I don’t know what I have taken away from this book. Perhaps it is a lesson in the unpredictability of the human mind, perhaps it has been written simply to voice the confusion that many of us feel when these incidents occur. Particularly when there doesn’t seem to be any explanation as to why the person has done what they have done – as was the case with Kevin Khatchadourian. It’s difficult for us to understand something when there is no reason for it to have happened. Whatever the reason, I don’t believe that these sorts of things will stop happening, until the day that we are all completely at peace with ourselves and all our problems can be solved with a smile. Yes, that is sarcasm.
RATING – 8 out of 10.
WHO SHOULD READ IT – If you haven’t read it, then you should read it. It’ll really get you thinking about how strange our minds are.
FAVOURITE CHARACTER – I actually disliked all the characters. Eva herself I found to be rather detached for most of the book and a little self centred. Kevin is just a hateful person and Franklin was a bit too 1950’s dad for my liking. But I suspect that these characters are the reason that the book works so well.