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Three days before his sixteenth birthday, Kevin Katchadourian goes into his high school, where he shoots and murders seven fellow pupils, a teacher and a cafeteria worker. In a series of letters to her former husband, Kevin’s mother Eva recalls his upbringing and their lives together.

I’ll be honest – for the first 100 pages of this book (my edition was exactly 400 pages) I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. That said, it’s not necessarily a book that you can enjoy as such, given that it is about a school shooter. It is set in 2000, two years after the horrific incident, and while Kevin and his specific crime is fictional, it references several real life school shooters. It is a sobering subject, but despite this I have become absorbed in other books on the same subject (for example, the brilliant Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult).

Eva is frankly, not an easily likeable person – although I sense that she was written that way deliberately. Her ambivalence towards her son since before he was even born, was apparent, and she wrote about him as if he was evil from the moment he arrived in the world. The question at the heart of the book is whether someone can be born evil or if – in this case – Kevin turned out the way he did as a result of his mother’s attitude towards him.

From about 100 pages in however, the book captured and held my attention. I still did not really warm to Eva, although I did feel so desperately sorry for her. I wondered if she was a reliable narrator, and if all the horrible things that Kevin did prior to the school shooting were actually as she described them, but of course events bore out the fact that he was a cruel and reckless young man.

Eva is very verbose and rarely uses one word if she can manage to use twenty. She is also clearly very intellectual and has a superiority complex to others. But she is not without compassion, even if she is very selfish. I did not like her husband Franklin either, although admittedly we only ever get to know him through Eva’s own filter. But his blind defence of his son made me want to shake him for his naivety. (Again though, I wonder how the same events would have played out written from Franklin’s point of view.)

Anyway – it’s relentlessly bleak, but you kind of have to expect that going in. It’s a book I’ve been meaning to read for a number of years, and I’m glad I finally did. On the whole, I would recommend it although I don’t think I would rush to read any more books by this author.

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