Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review and Wear Wednesday: We Need to Talk About Kevin

So I recently read a book that we need to talk about--We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I'm recommending it to everybody. It's not an easy book to read, and if you're pregnant or have a child, it might worry you (not me, I'm convinced my baby's a sweetie). But it's the best book I've read so far this year! And now I need to watch the movie, starring Tilda Swinton. Speaking of Swinton, are you familiar with her style?
White button-down - Petite Sophisticate, Lavender cami - Express, Bracelet - Stand in Hawaii, Maxi skirt - Express
She's known for her androgynous beauty. When she isn't wearing well-tailored pants, she's in a long skirt, and since I can't fit into any pants lately, guess what I went with?
Swinton also knows how to work a blouse.
I couldn't work in any fabrics with a sheen, silk or satin, like Swinton does a lot, but my bracelet is a shout-out to that.
So that's me, Swinton-fied.
But what about the book? I said we need to talk about it!
Reasons I was blown away by this book:
Lionel Shriver is a helluva writer. The vocabulary is fantastic, the details are great, there are always pictures painted.

I loved the confessional-style of this book. Eva is writing letters to her husband Franklin, telling him from the beginning the problems she had with Kevin, who grew up to be one of those high school killers. ("One of those high school killers" is really actually something I wrote, then thought, Is there a better way to say this? But Shriver/Eva talk a lot about these other high school killers [Columbine, etc.]--how at first, they were so, so shocking, and now they're almost...passe. That's...very sad on many levels.)

Shriver went into a subject a lot of us have often wondered about--who are these families? Who raised these children? These evil children. Whose fault is it? I've never been one to immediately think, Oh, it's the parents' fault. I've usually felt equally bad for these parents as I did victims' families, maybe even worse? because of the blame they and others will place on them, no matter how unfair that is. It was interesting to for me then to listen to Eva's story.

Shriver doesn't leave any holes (meh, except for kind of one at the end, spoiler, so will get into that later). Maybe you're wondering if Eva's thoughts about the evil nature of her son are only clear in hindsight, or maybe she even made him sound worse, knowing now what he's truly capable of. Nope, Shriver gives us enough incidents where we see others catch a glimpse of Kevin's true nature, including Eva's mother (mother's intuition?). Maybe you're wondering why Eva never left Franklin and Kevin, since she saw from the beginning Kevin's nature and Franklin always covered up for him, forgave him, excused him. Especially after Celia. But Eva loved Franklin. Enough to not give up and leave.

I was horrified again and again by Kevin. He is smart and clever and could have been a leader. Sometimes his sweeter side comes through, and you sigh in frustration. But from when he's a baby to a teenager, he is manipulative and mean, knowing just the right buttons to press to hurt other people and drive his mother crazy, maybe the only person he cares about, and/or the only person he sees as a challenge.

Shriver is not afraid to give us characters that we constantly question, maybe even characters we don't like, but they're very real. I read some reviews where people dislike Eva--I didn't think there was anything wrong with her. I really think Kevin from the start was a bad seed, and Eva saw that too. If anything, Eva is hard on herself, not only giving us incidents where Kevin was a little jerk, but showing us moments where she wasn't a stellar mother, trying to make a connection, to blame herself, but she isn't to blame. Franklin drove me batty, but who can blame a parent for unconditionally loving his son?

I also appreciate that Shriver doesn't pull any punches. Kevin's actions are shocking. **SPOILERS ahead** The whole masturbation thing? That really disturbed me. The people that die...include Franklin and sweet Celia. And when Kevin criticizes his father to Eva, when he shows his mother that he has Celia's glass eye--ugh, the emotions I felt.

I mentioned earlier one hole in the story that bothered me, and it's Celia's eye. Seriously? You can go to juvie and take with you a glass eye? Don't they strip you of all personal possessions? I don't actually know, but that's how I imagine it to be, so Kevin having the eye really bothered me from a writing perspective. And then at the end...Kevin has changed. Maybe he's becoming remorseful and is scared of going to jail, but I didn't buy it and I didn't like it. Shriver spent this whole book showing Kevin's fearlessness, his bad attitude, everything bad about him! He can't have changed that much.

Even with these problems, this book was still amazing. I have a bad feeling none of the other books I read this year will be able to hold a candle to this, which slightly worries me (because it's so early in the year!). Why can't all books be this good?

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