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"There is no point. That's the point."
Kevin Khatchadourian
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We Need To Talk About Kevin is a 2011 psychological thriller drama film based on a book written by Lionel Shriver in 2003. (This film is not the first adaptation of the story; a radio adaptation was made in 2008.) The film was directed by Lynne Ramsay and starred Tilda Swinton as Eva, John C. Reilly as Franklin, and Ezra Miller of Californication as Kevin. It has a soundtrack composed by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, and was entered into the 2011 Cannes Film Festvial.

Eva never really wanted to be a mother — and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who, on a spring Thursday in 1999, three days before his 16th birthday and a few weeks before Columbine, killed 10 people in his school's gym. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

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This book and the film based on it provide examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Eva's frustration with Kevin's refusal to use the toilet despite already being six years old eventually leads her to throw him, breaking his arm. It's clearly stated that this causes him to gain a small amount of respect for her, and she becomes the only one who is allowed to see his 'true' nature. In The Movie, however, this is implied to be a major step on Kevin's Start of Darkness.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Kevin's "tabloid name" is K.K.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Eva fears that her son Kevin, who she suspects to be a sociopath, may harm Celia or herself. Her fears were well-founded, though in the end Kevin did not kill her. Celia, on the other hand...
    • The entire novel and film are built around this trope: Your child, whom you have with nothing but the best of intentions, could turn out to be a sociopath and there's nothing you can do to prevent it.
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  • Ax-Crazy: Kevin eventually graduates to killing everyone in his family bar his mother, and going on a spree-killing rampage at his school.
  • Axes at School: Bows and arrows, actually.
  • The Baby Trap: Played with, as Eva is already married and has a child, but when she tells Franklin she wants another, Franklin points out she resents and picks on Kevin and refuses to discuss the matter. Eva decides to have another baby anyway and Franklin doesn't take it well. The film has them not even discuss it, she just springs it on him after she's already pregnant.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Basically. Kevin gets everything he wants by the end of the book, aside from the slight setback of doing a few years in prison (and even that went according to plan — as a minor, he got nowhere near the sentence he deserved). Kevin hates his dad? His dad's dead. Kevin resents his sister and is jealous of the affection their mother shows her? His sister's dead, but not before he ensured that she was mutilated first. Kevin wants control of his mother? He's practically guaranteed it, once he gets out of prison — Eva is so worn down that she's prepared to sacrifice the last shreds of her dignity, sense of self, and any hope of escaping the control Kevin has over her life because she "loves" him. However, he doesn't get it all his own way: it's implied that the juvenile prison system has somewhat knocked the stuffing out of him — he shows up to his mother's latest visit with visible facial wounds, suggesting the other prisoners beat and abuse him, and possibly more than that. He's incredibly apprehensive of moving to the adult system, which will be even worse. That said, He's described at least once as having scabbed knuckles, suggesting that his scuffles in prison may not be entirely one-sided. His fear about being transferred to an adult prison is more about the fact that he'll have to deal with much more than just fistfights there.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: It's heavily implied that Kevin killed Celia's pet guinea pig. Eva also begged Franklin not to buy Kevin a dog when he was a child, with this reason being implied to be her secret fear.
  • Berserk Button: Eva notes that as a child, Kevin detested the word 'favorite'.
  • Big Brother Worship: Despite Kevin's overall indifference towards her, Celia adored Kevin. Eva noted her dismay that her daughter was scared of everything in the house, except the one thing she should have been.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Kevin, not that he bothers with the sheep's clothing around Eva. And "bitch" may be the understatement of the century.
    • To a less lethal extent, Franklin, especially in the book. He seems nice enough, and he and Eva love each other (or, at least, did once), but he treats Eva (and, to a lesser extent, Celia) like crap a number of times. This is downplayed in the movie, where he comes off as more of a well-meaning idiot than anything.
  • Book-Ends: The film version's first shot/climax is of billowing curtains in a dark house with the click-click-click sound of a lawn sprinkler in the background. We hear the sprinkler throughout the film whenever something really bad is about to happen, so when we reach the final flashback when Eva returns home from the shooting scene and we see the same shot from the beginning of the film, with the sprinkler going nuts in the background, we know that whatever she finds on the patio behind the curtains isn't going to be pretty. It isn't.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Kevin's stay in prison has definitely undone his arrogance quite a bit and it's shown he's genuinely scared of going into the adult system.
    • Eva goes through this over the course of the book - no matter what Kevin does, Franklin never sides with her over him and her previous arrogance makes her a pariah amongst her neighbours after Thursday.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Kevin is very smart but just doesn't see the point of getting straight A's.
  • Cassandra Truth: Franklin simply refuses to believe that there is something wrong with his son, to a point where it almost grows demented. Kevin is simply putting up a paper-thin guise as a happy boy to his dad to hurt Eva, and resents his dad for failing to see the truth when he was throwing up such a painfully transparent disguise.
  • Color Motif: The color red that recurs throughout the film (the tomato rain, the neon light in the sex scene, baby Kevin's ball, the digits in the alarm clock, paint on Eva's apartment) symbolizes blood and the killings Kevin does.
  • Columbine: Mentioned several times in the book, and compared to Kevin's rampage at least once.
  • Consummate Liar: Kevin, since he was six.
  • Control Freak: The moment Franklin learned Eva was pregnant with Kevin, he started policing everything she did, including yelling at her for dancing around the living room. Eva's resentment towards Franklin's behaviour and her pregnancy might go to explain why she and Kevin were incapable of bonding when Kevin was born. By contrast, Franklin totally ignored Eva's pregnancy with Celia, and not coincidentally Eva adored Celia from the word go.
  • Country Matters: Used once by Kevin in the film.
    Kevin: Next you can wheedle about whether there isn’t some cute little cunt in the front row that’s got me itchy.
  • Creepy Child: The African mask makes him look even creepier.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Kevin hangs onto Celia's glass eye for two years after he murdered her. Eventually, he gives it back to Eva, as some sort of peace offering.
  • Crucified Hero Shot:
    • See A God Am I below.
    • The opening tomato festival scene in the movie gave us this image of Eva in a pose that may or may not reflect this trope.
  • The Dark Side Will Make You Forget: Kevin in the end:
    Eva: I want you to tell me...why.
    Kevin: I used to think I knew. Now, I'm not so sure.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • Kevin does this with the bathroom door open. It's implied he's doing it just to mess with Eva, rather than having actual urges.
    • Even worse in the film version; Eva walks in on him doing it in the bathroom. He locks eyes with her and just does it harder.
  • Dangerous 16th Birthday: Eva suspects Kevin of having timed the shooting before this. A court could and did try him as an adult, but because he was under 16, they could only sentence him as a juvenile. He gets seven years.
  • Enfant Terrible: The young Kevin.
  • Epistolary Novel: The novel is told through Eva's letters to Franklin. It's implied that they're separated... until Eva narrates the Thursday of Kevin's massacre and reveals that Franklin has been dead all along.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Kevin starts speaking late, but then in whole sentences, the very first of which is "I don' like dat".
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas:
    • Kevin claims this to the case. The nearest he actually comes to expressing it explicitly, though, is the heartwarming "Left you alive, didn't I?"
    • Of course, it can be argued that it is merely Sympathy for the Hero that spared her. Also, with her son's notoriety as a murderer, her husband and daughter dead, and herself a social pariah, Eva's life could be seen as a Fate Worse than Death. Eva herself seems to think so in the film, when door-to-door missionaries ask her some "quick questions":
      Young Suited Man #2: Do you know where you're spending the afterlife?
      Eva: Ohhh, yes — I do, as a matter of fact. I'm going straight to hell. Eternal damnation, whole bit. Thank you for asking.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Many examples, but perhaps one of the most entertaining is when Eva tells Kevin that he may have a new brother or sister. He spends the entire conversation snapping all his crayons in half.
    • In the novel, Kevin gives a geeky girl at his prom a Hannibal Lecture while she's dancing — we don't know what it is he says to her, but her reaction implies it was bad.
    • Kevin vandalizes Eva's study, very shortly after she's finished decorating it, purely because he thinks the maps look "dumb".
    • Kevin goes through all the trouble of mastering how to use a bow and arrow to perform his massacre (on top of other details of planning) because he wants to make absolutely sure that people understand that the only reason he killed all of those other kids was because they annoyed him.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: In the film, Kevin is played by Ezra Miller, who has quite a deep voice that contrasts his youth and appearance.
  • Eye Scream: What happens to Celia, with bleach.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Kevin's sudden interest and affection when Eva reads him Robin Hood as a kid.
    • According to the screenplay, the neon light in the sex scene flashes like a warning light.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Kevin is described as very attractive and he's played by Ezra Miller in the film, which sharply contrasts the monster lurking underneath.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Really the theme of the whole film, but especially the fact that the one good moment between Eva and Kevin (a bedtime reading of The Adventures of Robin Hood) resulted in tragedy (Kevin taking up archery and massacring his family and school).
  • For the Evulz: Many of Kevin's actions are for this purpose.
  • Freudian Excuse: Kevin would sneer at such an assessment but it's heavily implied that he genuinely wanted Franklin's love and affection and knowing the only way he could get it was by adopting a completely different personality hurt him more than he would like to admit.
  • A God Am I:
    • Kevin shows shades of this, although it's not specifically stated.
    • After the massacre, Kevin bows to the empty gym and outstretches his arms to the point where it begins looking like a Crucified Hero Shot.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The massacre in the film version. Averted in the book where Eva describes it in blunt and brutal detail based on the news coverage.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Used occasionally in the film to very offsetting effect.
    • Kevin biting his nails and putting them down in a line.
    • Eva picking bits of eggshell out of her teeth when trying to enjoy a dinner made from broken eggs.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Celia, taking after Franklin in looks.
  • Happily Married: Franklin and Eva were this. Then after Eva became pregnant, everything went sideways. After Kevin's birth, it gets worse. Much worse. Shortly before he died, Franklin demanded a divorce, but it's clear throughout the book that Eva still loves him.
  • Heir Club for Men: Franklin has shades of this, clearly preferring his "big strong boy" Kevin to Celia and frequently showing distaste at his daughter's feminine hobbies, though Eva is quick to add that despite that he still loves Celia very much.
  • Hot for Student: Kevin accuses his teacher Vicky Pagorski of hitting on him after her class. He tells a very convincing story to the school board and a few parents, which gets Ms. Pagorski fired. Eva, however, suspects that Kevin made up the whole thing.
  • Idiot Ball: From Eva's account, it looks as if Franklin acquires one and clutches it in an unrelenting death grip from the moment he finds out she's pregnant.
  • Incest Subtext: It's there in the movie, and uncomfortably blatant in the novel. Kevin is rather worryingly obsessed with Eva, only showing his true nature to her, harassing her, and even masturbating in front of her. For bonus Oedipus Complex points, he also despises his father, and seems to resent Celia because Eva likes her better. She's also the only member of the family he leaves alive. Eva, for her part, isn't into her son (probably), but does compare their relationship to a toxic marriage or sexual relationship a number of times.
  • Irony:
    • In the movie, the only person who understands that Eva is suffering and does not deserve all the acrimony from town is one of Kevin's surviving victims.
    • Despite preferring Kevin over her, Franklin does end up with Celia because they both die together.
  • Jacob and Esau: The screenplay makes it obvious that Kevin is Franklin's favorite child, and Celia is Eva's.
  • Jerkass:
    • In addition to his acts of murder and cruelty, Kevin is generally rude and unpleasant, particularly to Eva.
    • Eva herself isn't exempt from being rude and unpleasant, especially her Holier Than Thou attitude, which Kevin of all people calls her out on.
  • Kick the Dog: Poor mouse... and by extension, poor Celia.
  • Kill the Cutie: Kevin murders Celia before the school massacre.
  • Kubrick Stare: Kevin delivers several genuinely chilling ones, as demonstrated in the poster above.
  • Lack of Empathy: Kevin. Goes with being a sociopath.
    • The ball scene shows that Kevin managed to perfect this as a child.
  • Light Is Not Good: Kevin wears a white shirt on the day of the massacre.
  • Loners Are Freaks:
  • Lovable Coward: Celia in a nutshell.
  • Loving a Shadow: A non-romantic example, but it's implied this is the reason for Kevin's contempt towards Franklin, who was a Doting Parent towards him, but only a version of Kevin he thought existed. Franklin doggedly refused to blame Kevin or suspect him of anything, and as Kevin himself points out, Franklin loved a façade Kevin was putting up, not Kevin's actual personality that he showed to Eva.
  • Maternally Challenged: Eva outright admits she disliked Kevin from birth. She does a better job with Celia. For all the good it does either of them.
  • Meaningful Name: Celia, a kind, loving, and well-behaved little girl who is portrayed throughout the story as the complete opposite of Kevin, has a name meaning "heavenly". Also appropriate given that she is eventually murdered by Kevin.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Played for Drama. The vast majority of the local townspeople despise Eva for being Kevin's mother, and think nothing of vandalizing her property or physically and verbally assaulting her in public.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Kevin, in the end.
    Eva: Why?
    Kevin: I used to think I knew. Now I'm not so sure.
  • Nature vs. Nurture: The book and film is based around the nature/nurture debate — did Kevin grow into a murderer because mummy didn't love him enough, or was he a psychopath from the word "go"? It is ultimately left to the reader's imagination to decide how Kevin became the person he was. There is evidence to support both cases, but Kevin's indifference (and even admiration) toward Eva's neglect strongly suggests it's the latter, but there's hints to the former as well. Lionel Shriver herself claims that the ambiguity is deliberate:
    As Kevin attests, I'm a sucker for ambivalence.
  • Nice Guy: Kind of played with for Franklin, since this doesn't work out well for him or anyone else involved and he can be a real dick towards Eva on the subject of Kevin.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Eva laments that Kevin was impossible to punish as a child because the consequences didn't matter to him - he enjoyed getting under Eva's skin when she slapped him and he had nothing she could deprive him of. When Eva takes Kevin's squirt gun as a four-year-old and then displays joy over finally managing to upset him, Kevin learns from this and develops an uncanny ability to mask everything he feels or thinks, even from her.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Eva's defense lawyer attempts to portray her as a normal mother who had no control over her son's rampage, but Eva is too broken by then to really care and resents being labelled an average mother, so her presentation in court comes off as arrogant and uncaring of the damage Kevin caused.
  • Not So Different: Both Kevin and Eva invoke this towards each other, but hardly ever at the same time or with agreement from the target. Tilda Swinton says she had planned from the start to "twin" with the actor(s) who played Kevin.
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • Eva's agoraphobic mother who hasn't left her house in twenty years offers to fly to see her after Kevin's massacre.
    • Just before the events of Thursday, Kevin's Mask of Sanity finally cracks and he unleashes a rant at Franklin that he's clearly been dying to say for a long time, before quickly pretending nothing happened and leaving.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Eva's explanation for Kevin's delay in starting to speak, get housetrained, and interact with other kids, as well as his consistent academic underachievement (the latter suspicion is shared by his English teacher who ends up becoming one of Kevin's victims).
  • Odd Couple: Eva and Franklin. This is brutally Deconstructed as it's because they are so fundamentally different that they cannot agree over their own opinions of Kevin - Franklin even wanted to divorce Eva before Thursday, which is ironically a big factor in what pushed Kevin into doing it.
  • Oedipus Complex: Kevin couples an unnerving obsession with his mother with absolute contempt for his father (who is so oblivious to his son's antipathy that it skirts Unknown Rival territory). Kevin has a peculiar habit of making sure his mother knows (and hears, and as far as possible sees) when he's getting to grips with himself — she feels like she's being sexually harassed by him. He's always had a special connection with Eva — she's somewhat pleased that her son shows his true personality to her, but never to his father. Alarmingly, Kevin actually succeeds in living out the desire at the centre of the Oedipus complex (albeit without the sexual part): removing his father so that he has his mother all to himself. The ending strongly implies that Kevin will move back in with Eva when he's released.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: In the film, there's a flash-forward scene that depicts Eva at the scene of the aftermath of the shooting and reacting with horror to... something. This exact moment is revisited when it becomes the present, and we find out that Eva was horrified because she saw firemen sawing through a bike lock, which Kevin had purchased several of earlier.
  • Pac Man Fever: Horribly straight example in the film. When child Kevin is playing a game with his father, they randomly mash buttons on the controller (which they are holding wrong) and shout cringe-worthy lines such as "How do you jump?" and "DIE! DIE!" at the TV, which blares arcade sounds. Mind you, they're playing a Nintendo 64 game.
  • Parental Favouritism: Kevin is Franklin's favourite child, Celia is Eva's. Kevin was not happy about that.
  • Parental Neglect: As time goes on, Eva avoids her child and his odd ways. But Franklin either deliberately goes out of his way to only see to see the good in Kevin or just plain avoids his side of the parenting.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Franklin has this to the point that it almost seems too over-the-top to be real. Then again, the book is from Eva's account, and she does see it as an endearing character trait of Franklin's.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • During a two-week period where Kevin is sick as a ten-year-old, he's actually nice to Eva and Celia. It doesn't last, unfortunately, but for Kevin it's significant. His disdain for Franklin remains, tellingly.
    • In the book, Eva brings a disk she finds in Kevin's room to work with her... and it turns out to be a virus that wipes out her entire office's system. Oops. Despite her dislike for Kevin and willingness to believe the worst in him, Eva admits this one is on her, and gives the disk back to Kevin, telling him what happened. Kevin responds by commenting that if Eva ever gets pissed off at someone, he could wipe out their computer for her.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Kevin's harsh language about women implies some levels of misogyny, although it's unknown if he was doing it just to get under Eva's skin.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The movie leaves out Eva's writing letters to the dead Franklin, and a few other things are changed as well. Kevin's weapon of choice is changed from a crossbow to a longbow, and instead of sitting calmly waiting to be arrested, he strolls out of the gym with his hands up.
  • Pretty Boy: Kevin, both in Eva's description in the novel, and being portrayed by Ezra Miller in the film.
  • Rejected Apology: At the way back home from the doctor, Eva apologizes to Kevin for hurting Kevin, but Kevin ignores Eva and turns away from her.
  • The Resenter:
    • Kevin, towards everything and everyone, including himself. His mental disorder makes him perceive everything as boring, pointless, and uninteresting, and this is how he feels every second of his life.
    • Eva resented both Franklin and Kevin when she got pregnant because she could no longer travel around the globe:
      Eva (to baby Kevin): Mummy was happy before widdle Kevin came along, you know that, don't you? And now Mummy wakes up every day and wishes she were in France. Mummy's life sucks now, doesn't Mummy's life suck? Do you know there are some days Mummy would rather be dead?
  • Rule of Symbolism: After Celia loses her eye, Kevin makes a show out of deliberately peeling and eating a lychee fruit, which is eyeball-like in appearance. *And then* there's the film's frequent focus on various red liquid, made all the more disturbing by the fact that actual human blood is only shown a couple times.
  • Sadist: Kevin is repeatedly shown to be one, taking immense pleasure in the pain he has inflicted on Eva and others.
    • Eva has a subtle moment of this when she confiscates Kevin's toy gun, visibly frustrating him, and she smugly tells him she took it off him because he was being a jerk and holds the gun just out of his reach the entire car ride to their new house, commenting in her internal monologue this is one of the first times since Kevin's birth she's enjoyed parenting - when she manages to upset her child. Kevin pays her back for this by destroying her study.
  • Scare Chord: When Eva's sleep is disturbed by thoughts of Kevin's bow-and-arrow massacre at the school.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Kevin and Celia.
  • The Sociopath: Kevin himself. Confirmed by Word of God.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • Most of the songs in the film are perky pop or western songs from the 50's or 60's. A rather surreal example, as the songs seem to fit their respective scenes quite well despite being happy songs in a fully bleak film.
    • The outstanding example is Buddy Holly's "Everyday", which is played as Eva begins to have a nervous breakdown in her car driving home on Halloween night. As one reviewer puts it, "If I hear Buddy Holly's 'Everyday' any time on Halloween day after this film, I may have a complex".
  • Spree Killer: The titular Kevin is a budding sociopath, with a contempt for everyone else in existence and a twisted relationship with his mother. Prompted by the discovery his parents are planning to divorce and she'll lose custody of him, depriving him of his victory over her, Kevin kills his father and little sister. Then proceeds to his school, where he locks all the doors to the gymnasium and goes on a rampage killing nine classmates, a teacher and a cafeteria worker with his bow (choosing it to avoid any political discussions taking the focus off him) his timing specifically so that he can't be sentenced as an adult, and will avoid life in prison.
  • Stepford Smiler: Eva herself admits that she behaved this way around Kevin as a young child and notes that despite telling him she loved him, asking him how school was and playing with him, Kevin knew full well that she didn't mean any of it.
  • Stepford Suburbia: How Eva views the neighborhood Franklin relocates the family to — without asking her — in order to give his little boy what he considers a wholesome childhood environment.
  • Straw Nihilist: Kevin. "There is no point."
  • Strawman Has a Point: Despite Franklin's constant siding with Kevin over any evidence, when Eva tells him she wants another child he isn't wrong when he points out that she's an incredibly cold mother towards Kevin and interprets everything he does to be motivated out of spite towards her. Notably, Eva has no rebuttal when he asks her why she thinks she'd be a better mother to a second child and she has to resort to tricking Franklin into getting her pregnant.
  • Suburban Gothic: The book and film explore the dynamic between Kevin, his mother, who didn't want children and was abusive toward him when he was young, and his father, who is unfailingly optimistic about the prospect of having a happy family, causing him to overlook Kevin's behavioral warning signs.
  • The Talk: Eva tries to give a young Kevin one, but given the kind of person Kevin is, he catches on very quickly, and even refers to it as "fucking".
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Kevin displays this from birth. He displays absolutely no interest in anything (no, seriously, anything), leaving Eva with a dilemma: how do you discipline a child who does whatever he wants despite any threats and has nothing you can take away from him, with the husband on his side?
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth:
    • Celia.
    • This is also how Laura Woolford's mother tries to portray her daughter when courting press attention after the massacre.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Colin from the film. Good lord, what an asshole.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Eva. The book is her written account of what happened, and the movie takes place in her mind. However, we ultimately never know if anything is exaggerated or fabricated, since we never get a different account to compare hers to. Her brutal honesty makes us trust her more, though.
  • Vehicle Vanish: In one scene, Eva and Celia are walking down the street when they see Kevin looking at a poster advertising Eva's book signing across the street. At that exact moment, Kevin turns and looks at them right as a car passes by, and is gone once the car has passed.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Kevin gets a few of these, including a memorable one just before the school shoot-up.
    • It's hinted at the end that two years after the event, Kevin's smarter-than-thou attitude has almost been crushed by the juvenile prison system, showing him with notable scars and wounds. The prospect of going to an adult penitentiary has him visibly terrified.

Tropes only included in the book:

  • Acceptable Targets: Although how much Author Appeal factors in remains ambiguous, Eva loves to rant about fat people. There does, however, seem to be a lot of Take Thats aimed at Democrats, such as Kevin's very left-wing victim, Greer, who tells Kevin she wants to watch him die despite having been staunchly anti-capital punishment prior to it.
  • Age-Inappropriate Dress:
    • Kevin deliberately wears all his clothes at least a size too small, and starts a unique fashion trend in the juvenile prison where baggy clothes are the norm. In Real Life, tightly-fitting clothes would be the norm amongst teens a decade after the story is set.
    • The shirt-and-diaper combinations Kevin still wears at age six make him look like an overgrown three-year-old.
  • Alpha Bitch: Laura, one of the victims in the school shooting. Eva suspects this is due to a warped crush on Kevin's part.
  • Cultural Posturing: Eva has Armenian heritage she is very proud of and she likes to think she's above the coarse behaviour of Americans that she disdains, but as Kevin rather bluntly points out, she's just as bad as the people she sneers at.
  • Dead All Along: Franklin and Celia, which is a devastating Twist Ending.
  • Evil Is Petty: In the novel, Kevin gives a geeky girl at his prom a Hannibal Lecture while she's dancing — we don't know what it is he says to her, but her reaction implies it was bad.
    • Kevin vandalises Eva's study, very shortly after she's finished decorating it, purely because he thinks the maps look "dumb".
    • Kevin goes through all the trouble of mastering how to use a bow and arrow to perform his massacre (on top of other details of planning) because he wants to make absolutely sure that people understand that the only reason he killed all of those other kids was because they annoyed him.
  • Freudian Slip: When Celia is distraught over being unable to find her pet mouse and refuses to go to bed, Eva comments in her internal monologue, "It was unlike her to be such a brat" - giving some indicator in how intolerant Eva is with a child who shows her any difficulty, even if it's her precious, well-behaved daughter.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: While Kevin has at least a solid reputation at school, his best friend, Lenny, qualifies as this. It doesn't surprise Eva that Kevin doesn't like him at all.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: When Eva tells Kevin about a neighbourhood boy getting hurt, he comments, "Yeah, well. He thinks he's so cool with that bike", Eva says:
    Eva: The AC must have been turned on too high. I stood up and rubbed my arms. I didn't remember mentioning anything about a bicycle.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Going along with Unreliable Narrator but more pronounced in the book as the subplot is completely left out - it's never made clear if Kevin was molested by his drama teacher.
  • Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal: Large parts of the book are Where Did We Go Wrong? about this trope. They tend to exonerate the parents of any blame for the kids' actions...
  • Mind Screw: The end of the book.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Whatever Kevin said to that girl at the Homecoming dance, which remains unanswered but completely broke her in what seems to be minutes.
    • Also invoked in Kevin's admitted lack of motivation for the shooting, although it seems equally inexplicable to him.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Kevin gets a very light sentence due to his apparent use of anti-depressants that drove him psychotic.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Kevin does this a few times. To his mother (with a side of Hannibal Lecture), to his supposed best friend, to his father, and in the inevitable TV documentary to pretty much everyone except Eva.
    • The one to his mother is especially harsh for two reasons: 1.) He delivers it at a moment when Eva thinks that she and Kevin are finally establishing a connection. Kevin asks her a question about her views on America and when she answers, Kevin proceeds to systematically tear both her answer and Eva apart (of course, the reader isn't sure if Kevin purposely set his mother up with the question or if he really was interested in her answer and responded accordingly). and 2.) As cringe-worthy as it is, Kevin isn't exactly wrong.
  • The Reveal: Franklin is Dead All Along. Kevin killed him and Celia before he went to the school to kill his classmates and teacher.
  • The Straight and Arrow Path: A malign version. In the school shoot-up, Kevin uses a bow and arrows. There's an explanation for Kevin's use of the crossbow in the novel; according to Eva, it was all deliberate on Kevin's part, in order to make sure that his murder meant nothing (indicating that he didn't actually stand for anything; not for geeks lashing out on their classmates, nor for anti-gun protesters). It also seems like a commentary (on behalf of both the character of Kevin, and the writer/s) about the timelessness of violence, showing it as a problem that will never go away regardless of how the methods change.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Played with, in a somewhat sadistic way. Franklin thinks he is this to Kevin, who sneers at him behind his back (calling him "Mr. Plastic", a deliberate mispronunciation of his family name Plaskett). On the other hand, Eva suspects that there may also be a deep need to please somewhere beneath Kevin's willingness to put on a near-constant fake front, and a related anger that his dad actually buys into and likes the fake front.
  • Wham Line: Returning home from Kevin's massacre, Eva discovers Franklin and Celia's bodies.
  • Where Did We Go Wrong?
  • White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: Franklin's background. Less immediately noticeable for him than for his parents.
  • Yandere: One of Eva's various theories about the reasons for Kevin's rampage. She notes that Alpha Bitch Laura was the first to die, and was shot cleanly through the heart (a la Cupid), and wonders if Kevin killed her because he had some sort of attraction to her, and (since he has such contempt for the sentimental self-pity other shooters have displayed), killed everyone else to make it a full-scale school shooting and conceal his real motive. Like all the other possible reasons, this one is never proven or disproven, and when confronted with this interpretation, Kevin sneers it off. However, Eva thinks that his dismissal was overacted, and that he might be trying to cover up a nerve she just touched. Ironically, you could interpret Kevin's rampage as being a Yandere towards Eva.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Kevin pulls these over and over, especially noticeable when he accuses his teacher of molestation.

Alternative Title(s): We Need To Talk About Kevin

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