We Need to Talk About Kevin – An Audio Book Review

We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel ShriverTitle: We Need to Talk About Kevin
Author: Lionel Shiver
Narrator: Coleen Marlo
Length: 16 hours, 10 minutes

With so many options for entertainment these days, I wanted to see if there really was a difference between different media formats; Paperback, Film or Audio book.  To do this I turned to a compelling, and at the same time repelling, book called We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (Here comes the adult content disclaimer.  We Need to Talk About Kevin deals with some pretty heavy subject matter and creates strong images that are not intended for the kidlets).

It’s hard to know where to start when reviewing this story but what it boils down to is this:  I have no idea how I feel about this story!  I’ve read it, watched it, and listened to it and I’m still torn.  It’s sad, terrifying, intriguing, brilliant and unbelievably real.  The story is told through the eyes of Eva, a mother whose son at the tender age of 15 went on a killing spree at his high school.   A chilling topic and one that is outside my normal reading choice but once I started reading/watching/listening, I couldn’t extract myself from the story.  Eva draws you in with her honesty and brings to the surface the age old question of nature vs. nurture.  Was her son born to be a killer or was it her lack of connection with him that turned him into one?  This is a story that takes an exceedingly difficult topic and turns it on its head by looking at it from a different angle.

With the paperback version, I felt compelled to keep reading.  I just couldn’t get enough of this creepy young man and his mother who is numbing herself with questions, regrets and guilt.  The film version of this story was brilliantly done.  With less dialogue and a focus on creating stunningly haunting images, Eva and Kevin’s story is brought to life.  Eva and Kevin become all too real in film and the images of the fateful night that tore this family to shreds are still playing in my mind.  With the film version, I was left simply disturbed and did not feel much towards Eva.   With the audio book version, thanks to Coleen Marlo’s excellent narration, I felt more tenderness towards Eva.   I found that with listening to the story a whole other aspect of the book was brought to the surface.  Coleen’s reading was able to bring out a more human side of Eva that I didn’t get when reading the paperback version or watching the film.  That’s not to say the audio book was not as upsetting (trust me it still leaves you feeling uncomfortable and in shock at the events leading up to the fateful night).  I think perhaps it is slightly more compelling as it felt that Eva was talking to me and not to her husband.  Eva confesses, “It’s far less important to me to be liked these days than to be understood” and it feels like she’s looking to the listener for insight as to what went wrong and how to move on with her everyday life.

So which format did I like most?  Hands down, the audio book takes this round.  Listening to the book, I was not only drawn in by the horror of the story, I was able to feel something for Eva.  So after having taken in the story in 3 different formats, I’m still torn with how I feel about it.  But what I am certain of, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a story you will not forget.

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