"In a country that doesn't discriminate between fame and infamy, the latter presents itself as plainly more achievable."
So many people have told me that they thought this book was amazing, and the more I think about it, the more I'm slightly like '...Really?' The thing is, while I was reading it, I kind of couldn't put it down, and also I wanted to read it at every opportunity, and say what I might about it, the fact is that, the other day I saw this table outside a charity shop that was full of travel guides and I looked for AWAP ones (A Wing and a Prayer are the travel guides that Kevin's mother, and our narrator Eva writes), so its enveloping reality obviously can't be denied. But still... Issues.
So, I'm assuming we all know about Kevin. Psychopath child who orchestrates a high school massacre (which is something you find out practically immediately, in case you didn't know- the end result isn't really in question here, but how they got there is what the entire story is about) and his mummy is very very cross about it. I'm clearly trivialising here, but this woman... Wow. You may have heard that she's a fairly unsympathetic narrator, in spite of her circumstances (psychopath son, and all) and oh boy, that doesn't even cover it. I was expecting to go into the book not necessarily liking her, but I wasn't really expecting to HATE her, so fully and completely. I mean, I don't think there was a point in the whole book where I hated Kevin more than I hated her, and did I mention the thing about him massacring people?!
Anyway. Eva being a complete fucking bitch isn't necessarily a bad thing, or rather isn't something that puts me right off a book. In this case, it made things interesting because you want to attribute certain things in Kevin's personality to her (there are definite overlaps) even if she's not always open to recognising them, and there are points where you don't know if you can fully trust what she's saying because, after all, this is just her version of events. But the thing is... There might be a little TOO much Eva. The way she writes (since she's writing letters to her estranged husband- a format which I'm not even sure works at all since she writes about things that HE WOULD ALREADY KNOW ABOUT, in great detail. Which was one annoying thing.) puts her directly at the centre of everything, something which is obviously true to her and anyone else's experience (we're all the heroes of our own lives etc etc) but because she's writing letters just makes her sound like a massive narcissist. She is both responsible and not responsible for everything that happens, and while I guess this could be the way the mother of a psycho might think, it sure can get irritating to read.
And that's not all. The thing that gets me is that Shriver seems to have been unable to make up her mind about what or who she wants Kevin to be. On the one hand there's the constant evidence that there's something almost supernatural about his complete lack of feeling (in that, it was there from birth and so he was sort of a psycho baby, which I really don't buy), that no matter what anyone did he would have always turned out that way and so it doesn't really matter what anyone did during his upbringing (actually making the book sort of redundant). This is the line most taken, and actually, I find it really dull. Like, I'd be more interested in a look at what would drive someone who essentially had a normal mind to take such drastic action, rather than just seeing the inevitable in his entire character. The flip side is the idea that he's not so bad really, and that certain things Eva did made him the way he is, but I found these parts inconsistent with everything else mentioned about him. It's like no decision was properly made about his nature, and while I guess this is something that Eva never properly decided for herself, I feel like it's something that the author should have at least decided, you know?
I don't know. A big part of the book is Eva's trying to come to terms with what Kevin has done, and with that come a lot of mixed feelings and ideas and memories that seem to point in different directions, so maybe the conflicting views of Kevin come from that, but I still just didn't find it convincing- either baby Kevin was born without essential human feeling (as Eva seems to suggest basically all the time) or he wasn't, for which there is almost no evidence apart from a few things that completely contradict the rest. If this is meant to be confusion for Eva, then fine, but it felt really confusing and indecisive to me too, and not in a good way. We need to talk about all the ways this could have been a better book...
Now. I realise I've just bitched about this for a good 4 paragraphs, and not without good reason, but like I say, I was TRANSFIXED by it for a good 3 or 4 days. So while there were a lot of things that annoyed me, it's not like it was a bad book, because that kind I don't even keep on reading now that I'm on a bit of a book-getting-rid-of kick. It was extremely absorbing and I was dying to know what had happened, in full (which, don't worry, you'll get your moneys worth at the end) I just feel like I need to dispute the idea that it was perfect, because I think it's far from it.
So. Who wants this far-from perfect book?! I've decided to give it away to a lucky lucky commenter, because when I mentioned I was reading it on my Top Ten Tuesday post, SO many people said that they wanted to read it. This could be your chance! (Please note: While my review is far from positive, I never said you shouldn't read it. I think you definitely should, to see what all the fuss is about!) So yeah, if you want it, just leave a comment with your email address in it, and I'll see what I can do!