We Need To Talk About Kevin

I saw We Need To Talk About Kevin shortly after it came out on DVD, and I gave it 8/10 on IMDb, but it didn’t stick with me.

Since then, two friends who don’t know each other both told me they read the book and loved it, but didn’t care for the movie. Since I did like the movie, I thought “this must be a Really Good Book,” so when someone offered me a copy, I didn’t hesitate to accept.

* SPOILER ALERT *

When I blog about books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen, I rarely go into a lot of detail, sticking to an overview of the plot, whether or not I liked it, and why or why not. But this one is different, and I can’t say what I want to say without giving away a few things, so if you haven’t read We Need To Talk About Kevin, or at least seen the movie, bookmark this page and don’t come back until you have.

It’s clear very early in the novel that Kevin has committed mass murder. It’s even on the book jacket. In the movie, we don’t find that out until close to the end, and it’s not revealed on the DVD case.

The novel consists of a series of letters from Kevin’s mother, Eva, to his father, Franklin, where descriptions of her current life are combined with reflections on the past. Many of these reflections include revelations of events she had previously withheld from him, such as the day she threw young Kevin across the room and broke his arm. Although it’s clear that Kevin is not a normal child, there are other hints that Eva wasn’t exactly the world’s best mom. You can tell that she holds herself at least partially responsible for what happened. Obviously the victims’ parents do, as they persecute her as well as launching a civil suit against her.

It seems that the tragedy has driven the couple apart, and occasionally Eva expresses frustration that Franklin never responds to her letters. Once she mentions that losing him was bad enough, but she lost her daughter as well, making me think that the father got custody because she wasn’t considered a fit parent. In the movie, it’s not evident that the couple is no longer together, other than a brief conversation where they’re talking about custody.

When I finally learned that Kevin had also killed his father and sister, I was shocked. This woman has lost her home, her career, her husband, and her daughter, and all that’s left is a son who is in prison for mass murder and feelings of guilt. Despite all that, she visits him regularly and prepares a room for him for when he is released.

It’s no secret that the book will be better than the movie 99.9% of the time. You just can’t capture all the content and nuances of 400 pages in 2 hours. It can’t be done. I watch a lot of movies, but even so, I couldn’t believe that none of these details had stuck with me, so after finishing the book, I decided to watch the DVD again.

Since a person writing a bunch of letters wouldn’t make for a very interesting movie, they had to take a different approach. The movie constantly shifted from present day to flashbacks, which was really confusing – not for me, since I’d just read the book, but my husband, who had also seen the movie before, kept getting lost. Other than seeing Kevin as a child or as a teenager, the only clue as to timeframe was Eva’s hair style. In the early scenes, she had very short hair, and in the present day, it was above her shoulders. That sort of thing makes it hard to follow.

An even bigger downside is that Eva’s letters reveal so much more of her character and her inner thoughts than can be portrayed on film. And the movie shows us very little about Kevin’s motivation, whereas in the book he explains how he chose his victims, and why his mother was spared. It’s those inner thoughts that gave the book so much more depth. I can see why one friend has read it several times. I just may read it again myself sometime!

2015 Reading Challenge

Two more challenges completed!

We Need To Talk About Kevin was a book recommended by someone with great taste.

I’ve also read Confessions of a Hater by Caprice Crane, which I mentioned in my last post, as a book by a favorite author. I’m probably at least 40 years older than the intended reader, so the fact that it was just “okay” may not be significant. On the other hand, I’ve read a lot of great YA novels, including The Fault in our Stars (recommended by the same friend as We Need To Talk About Kevin, before the movie was even announced) and The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B (recommended by my sister, who also has great taste, but didn’t care for We Need To Talk About Kevin).

With only three challenges left and nearly four months remaining in the year, it looks like I’m going to make it!

On Goodreads, I’ve read 29 books towards my target of 40 for the year, putting me two ahead of schedule. What can I say? Reading rocks!

Comments

  1. Whoo hoo… I’m so glad you read the book. I told you it was better than the movie. I think I could only watch about 30 minutes of the movie and then I had to move on. I still can’t believe the twist at the end… what a little jerk that Kevin was…

    • He was a little jerk when he smeared his sandwich on the coffee table. What he did later goes way beyond that. Surely he had a mental illness, but I don’t know what it would be. What would you do with a child like that?

  2. What an insightful comparison of the book and movie! As someone who seems to still need to talk about Kevin, I’m always gratified when someone else finds it the fascinating read that I do.
    I will happily share the honour of being one of the people who have great taste in books – though many to whom I have suggested this book would disagree….

    • I can certainly see why it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste. Although it’s an excellent novel, it’s a really horrible story. There’s enough tragedy in the real world, that sometimes it’s nice to escape from that when we’re reading.

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