Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

everything i never told youIn the wake of Thirteen Reasons Why, it seems sort of appropriate that I would decide to read this book which I’ve had in my Kindle for quite some time, now.

Set in the late 1970’s, Everything I Never Told You centers around the death (suicide? murder? other?) of 17-year-old Lydia Lee, and the family she leaves behind, who struggle to find answers about her death. A child of bi-racial (half Asian, half Caucasian) parents, not to mention a Harvard grad and a Harvard professor, Lydia was the first born of three children, and had a lot riding on her shoulders. Made to live out her mother’s dream of becoming a doctor, Lydia was expected to get good grades and study 24/7. But her father wanted her to have friends and be popular. She couldn’t strike the balance between the two, leading to unhappiness and building up a charade so her parents weren’t disappointed in her.

After her death, the family tries to figure out what happened to her, where they failed her. We see perspectives from her parents, Marilyn and James, as well as her siblings, Nathan and Hannah, bouncing from the past and present as the story comes together. We even get the perspective of Lydia herself from time to time as the layers peel away and we discover how she ended up dead in the lake near her home.

While she didn’t leave tapes behind, the reason I mention Thirteen Reasons Why is that it is a) timely and b) features the people who try to pick up the pieces after a loved one is gone. It doesn’t make sense to them why someone would take their life, so they try to ferret out what else could have happened. Nathan, for instance, suspects their neighbor, Jack, might be involved. I like the way this story comes together masterfully by weaving in all the individual threads of the story into an incredibly complex tapestry. Very well written, touching piece of literature.

One comment

  1. I read this book when it first came out and I agree with you that it was well written. I think Celeste has come out with a new book since then, or will shortly, so we’ll have to check it out!

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