Study Guide

We Need to Talk About Kevin What's Up With the Title?

By Lionel Shriver

What's Up With the Title?

It's a little-known fact that Lionel Shriver went through ten alternate titles before she came up with We Need to Talk About Kevin. Here are the rejects:

  • What We Talk About When We Talk About Kevin
  • What to Expect When You're Expecting a Sociopath
  • We Need to Talk Aboot Kevin (Canadian Edition)
  • Let's Give Them Something to Talk About (How About Kevin?), to be available also in an audiobook narrated by Bonnie Raitt
  • Mom, You Suck
  • We Need to Talk About Bob
  • Hey, Um, Can We Maybe Sit Down and, Like, Have a Little Chat About Kevin Sometime in the Near Future if You Can Pencil Us in that Would be Great
  • Your Kid is Creepy
  • If You're Thinking About Having Children—Don't
  • Can We Not Talk About Kevin for a While? Okay, Thanks. Bye.

Okay, we made that up.

So we need to talk about the real title of the book. Well, it's pretty self-explanatory, yet Eva sure takes her sweet time talking about Kevin, doesn't she? And she and her husband never actually talk about Kevin. No one says the title of the book in the book itself. Every time Eva tries to talk about Kevin with her husband, he shuts her down.

That's why Eva writes these letters. Each one is, in its own way, about Kevin. Eva thinks, "What we talk about is what we think about, is what our lives are about" (2.100). And ever since her son killed his classmates, all she talks about and thinks about is Kevin. Her life is about Kevin.

But for the first couple of years after the murder, Eva doesn't talk to Kevin about himself. They make silly small talk in jail, which we kind of understand, since, well, committing a mass murder is a hard subject to address. So, eventually, Eva decides to be blunt and ask Kevin point-blank why he did it. Even Kevin isn't sure.

So what does talking about Kevin accomplish? Well, the book gets everyone talking about its themes, and that's probably the point: what Shriver seems to want is to start a national conversation about what's going on with kids like Kevin.