PanThe GuardianEva's sense of defeat at the birth of her son Kevin, her failure to breastfeed and the multiple difficulties she experiences with the sleepless, shrieking infant, are...familiar. Shriver isn't writing about ordinary motherhood or an ordinary boy, however, and this is where the novel begins to feel dishonest. Kevin is a monster, a gross caricature of childhood … By linking motherhood's most ordinary fears to this cartoon horror, Shriver exploits parents' very worst thoughts – that somehow, despite their best efforts, their offspring will turn out to be sociopathic – while undermining them with the implication that really, raising a mass murderer is just one of those things, much like mastitis. In this resolutely anti-parenthood and anti-children book, everything that can go wrong does.
MixedThe GuardianHosseini conjures the awful feeling of guilt that childhood wrongdoing can induce, the fear that one is forever branded as the result of one's actions … A great deal of the charm of the novel lies in the richly detailed characterisation. Baba is emotionally complex, a compelling and troubled man at home and abroad who despairs when he cannot get his bookish son to enjoy watching football, let alone playing it … Hosseini loses his grip on events, however, in the final third of the book. Determined to thoroughly redeem his protagonist, he creates a series of parallels that allow Amir to undo some of his former wrongs, and a series of cringe-making coincidences that bring the story full circle … What starts as a fiercely moral but subtly told story becomes an unconvincing melodrama, more concerned with packing in the action than with fictional integrity.