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Bük Kloob: We Need To Talk About Kevin

Bük Kloob is a series of book reviews loosely related to a book club I started.

You know the movie We Need To Talk About Kevin? It’s based off of the book, We Need To Talk About Kevin. Written by Lionel Shriver, the 2003 novel explores one of the most problematic child characters ever written through the lens of school shootings. It’s a fascinating read that, while imperfect, is a lesson on the unlikable.

The book is composed of letters from Eva Khatchadourian to her estranged husband, Franklin. She details her life without him, how she’s doing and how she’s surviving after their son shot up the school he attended. She explains how miserable things are as she is constantly attacked by locals for what her son did. She visits said son – Kevin – as a means to “be a good mom” while unpacking and unpacking and unpacking what he did via what she did, as a mother. The result is a thorough blasting through of characters designed to be hated. Eva, like her son Kevin, is not perfect. She, like her son, is a very smart, very gross person. The book watches the two characters bounce off each other until too many balls are bouncing around the room, quickly turning the space from cute to hostile.

It’s a marvel in that regard. It’s a portrait of people to hate. Everyone (Save for Eva’s eventual daughter!) is highly unlikable. Eva is an entitled snob, Franklin is a machismo ass, and Kevin is the ultimate button pusher. Everyone resents everyone. No one gets what they want. It’s an exercise in cynicism played out as in a one sided back-and-forth. For that, it is indeed marvelous.

The book also effectively creates a character like Eva who is the type of big-word using elitist with an unwarranted chip on the shoulder. There are many times that the book makes you wonder if you hate Eva or if you hate Shriver as the authorial voice can often be confused for Eva’s and vice versa. This tension is quite nice although it will be why many a reader stop reading.

The real joy (“joy”) of the book is that it is actually a skewering of the American family, circa 2000. Much of the book focuses on self-expression via consumerism, the dramatics of the 2000 election, mass shootings as a trend, and the willingness of Americans to give away all information about themselves in the hopes of public and private attention. This is unprecedented. As much as you may scoff at Shriver’s tone throughout the book, she designed a book to discuss gigantic subjects that are as relevant in 2017 as they were in 2003. In fact, the subjects might have been too premature to discuss. Today? They are all so relevant that they almost suffocate a reader.

It’s a good read. In need of shortening and editing, yes, but it is fascinating. For the lovers of the terrible, this is for you. Note that Shriver is currently kind of awful but know that you have to make from somewhere. We Need To Talk About Kevin is a triumph in that sense.

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