Review: Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You
By Celeste Ng
(Penguin Books, Paperback, 9780143127550, May 2015, 320pp.)

The Short of It:

Tragedy sometimes brings people together. Sometimes it pushes them apart.

The Rest of It:

Surprisingly, this novel is called a literary thriller by some. A bit odd since we know from page one that Lydia is dead. I suppose the facts surrounding her death could make this a thriller, but I never considered it to be one.

When Lydia goes missing, her parents and siblings realize that they don’t really know who she hangs out with or what she does after school. She’s been leading a double-life in that what she portrays to her family, particularly her father, is a portrait of a popular, smart high school student when in fact she is not popular at all and not doing well in any of her classes.

This American-Asian family is trying to fit into a 1970’s small town Ohio neighborhood and their challenges are great. Of the three siblings, Lydia is the least Asian in appearance. Blonde with blue eyes but the rest of the kids get made fun of and although the father sees it, he chooses to ignore it thinking that what his kids need is a thicker skin, and to just work on being more popular. It’s a lot of pressure for them, especially Lydia which makes the reader question if her death is self-inflicted or something else.

What’s absolutely heartbreaking about this story is that even before Lydia’s death, this family had problems and her death seems to just bring them to the forefront. This family doesn’t communicate with one another. They don’t seem to fully understand or know what is going on in the family or if they do, they are in complete denial about it. There are a lot of missed opportunities to love one another, and that’s the real tragedy in this novel. And just when you want and hope for the parents to swoop in and be parents, they fail miserably and you are left shaking your head over it.It sounds so bleak and some of it is but there is some hope for a reader to cling to.

My book club discussed this and there was plenty to talk about. The topic of mixed marriage, ethnicity in general and the pressure for kids to perform were just a few things we discussed. Most of us felt that the author did a good job of going back and forth in time and sharing just a enough of each character’s perspective to get a feel for them without giving it all away. In that sense, there was an air of mystery to the story which made me want to turn the pages faster.

In summary, it was a pretty good read and gave us plenty to discuss.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

20 thoughts on “Review: Everything I Never Told You”

    1. It’s funny because I didn’t highlight that many passages on my Kindle for this one, and yet it all came together so well. I believe this was her first book, too.

  1. Yeah, I read this one too. I quite liked it – I thought the writing was remarkable. But I couldn’t call it a thriller, lol 🙂

    1. I know! A thriller?? I think not. A lot of reviewers say this one is a lot like The Lovely Bones but I don’t see it. Besides the fact that the main character is known to be dead at the beginning, the two reads are totally different.

    1. I’ve never thought of it that way but you’re right. I just don’t care for it because the end result doesn’t change the fact that she’s dead. You know? In this instance and with this particular author I didn’t mind it all that much.

  2. I’m really interested in reading this one and have the audio…but I’m wondering if it’s one better picked up on paper! (oh wait, just read Diane’s comment above). I really like a story like this–especially that has a lot of other life factors (the ethnicity, parenthood). Glad you guys found a lot to discuss!

    1. Plenty to discuss but you’ve got to pick a good time to read it. A lot of the members felt it was overwhelmingly depressing. I didn’t so much but by the end I was feeling a bit glum.

  3. I’ve seen this one mentioned a lot as a must-read. I confess I never really paid a lot of attention to it. Of course, now thanks to your review, I want to read it. Just what I need…another book to add to the pile.

  4. I just got this one and was wondering about it as a book club choice. We’ve got a biggie coming up so maybe I can offer this nice short one as a make up the next month!

  5. I’ve been wanting to read this one. I enjoy family dramas and being part of an interracial marriage, I enjoy reading books where that is a theme, I haven’t read too many. Thanks for the review, I need to check this out!

  6. I think there’s a Hitchcockian streak in this one. Yes, I’d say it’s a ‘literary thriller’. Allow me to introduce one more comparison, I think it reads like a Bergman chamber film on the family, or something like ‘Ordinary People’. 🙂

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