Friday, 22 January 2016

Review | Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

by Celeste Ng

My Rating: 

Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue - in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James's case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting. 

When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia's older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it's the youngest in the family - Hannah - who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened. 

I must say a big thank you to Mallory @ The Local Muse for introducing me to this book; I don't tend to read family stories that often, but I'm always interested by mixed race families. As someone from an entirely white family I can't pretend to know what kind of experiences, either good or bad, someone from a mixed race family might have, but it's something I always want to learn more about.

Everything I Never Told You is one of the most devastatingly beautiful books I've ever read. It's also probably the best family story I've ever read, and it might well be one of the best books I read this year. For the past few years I've read something fantastic in January; last year it was Burial Rites, the year before it was American Gods, and now it's this.

Just as I was with The Miniaturist, I'm astounded that Everything I Never Told You is Celeste Ng's debut; her writing style is just stunning, and I will read whatever she publishes next. There's such attention to detail in the way she describes the members of this family, so even though the narration is fairly God-like (she sometimes alludes to things before they happen) we still get to know each character well. This book made me ache for all of them.

As the blurb says, Lydia Lee is the middle and favourite child of her parents, Marilyn and James, but when she's sixteen she goes missing, and her body is later found in the local lake. She appears to have committed suicide, but why would a girl who has it all do a thing like that? Only then do Lydia's family realise that they didn't really know her at all.

I have to be honest I don't tend to read many family stories because there's usually at least one person I don't really care that much about. This was the exception. Marilyn, James, Nath, Lydia, and Hannah are all so beautifully realised that I didn't care who I was reading about as long as I could keep reading and learn more. Even Marilyn and James who both do some pretty terrible things to their children (especially Lydia) and each other are understandable. You don't have to agree with them, you don't even have to sympathise with them, but it's hard not to understand why they are the way they are or why they do the things they do.

There are certain characters, such as neighbourhood boy Jack and even Lydia herself, who I thought were going to be one way and then turned out to be completely different people, which I loved. And then there's Hannah, the youngest child, whom I desperately wanted to cuddle; there's something about the blurb which kind of suggests Hannah has a very central role, but this story has an ensemble cast.

I loved this book. It's haunting and raw and honest. It's exquisitely written and exquisitely plotted. I highly recommend it!


  1. Glad to see you enjoyed this one! I really loved the variety of themes that this book was able to cover in depth, and I was totally sucked in while reading- I could not put it down! Great Review!

  2. I'm so glad you loved this one! I really need to read it because I've heard so many good things about it. Great review!

    1. I definitely recommend picking it up - it's brilliant! :)

  3. Aghh I'm SUPER happy you liked this! I have it on my TBR this month, but I couldn't get to it. I'll do next month. You made me excited for it♥

    PS, I'm a new follower of yours :)
    Jumana @ Books by Jay

    1. I hope you enjoy it when you get to it - I think it's brilliant!

      Ah, thank you! I'll definitely be checking out your blog. :D