BOOK REVIEW – EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU BY CELESTE NG
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing. Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
‘Everything I Never Told You’ was the first book I ever read that could be classified as ‘Mystery’. Of course, this was a large change, coming from a person whose bookshelves are filled with Teen Fiction.
Where do I begin? This story is excellent in so many different ways. The beginning of the book illustrates a typical morning in the Lee household. There’s just one small yet major detail missing from their family portrait. Lydia Lee. Favorite child, bright future, dreams of becoming a doctor. The plot of the story is quite simple: Where is Lydia Lee? And as all the members of the family unravel their dirty little secrets, the story gets even more complicated, until everything falls into place.
This book is written through multiple POV’s, from each member of the family. Alternating between past and present, the narrative sets a clear picture of the Lee family and the circumstances that shaped them. Each member of the family has a different perspective about Lydia and her dreams, from outstanding student to friendless child. The day Lydia’s body is found in the lake, all the secrets collapse, leaving just the Lee family without all the imaginary multitudes they’d created for themselves.
In terms of enjoyability, this is probably the best book I’ve ever read. The characters had distinct voices and opinions. Everything from the cover to the blurb was wonderfully executed. This is less of a mystery, rather a simple story about how a family believed in so many lies, they became truths.
This book was marketed towards an older audience, around the ages of 13 and up. However, anyone who wants a compelling, intriguing read should give this book a try.
QUOTES FROM BOOK
“Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless you could knock it over and shatter it.”
“The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you— whether because you didn’t get to have your say, or because the other person never got to hear you and really wanted to.”
“For the rest of the summer, and for years after that, they will grope for the words that say what they mean: to Nath, to Hannah, to each other. There is so much more they need to say.”
“Lydia knew what they wanted so desperately, even when they didn’t ask. Every time, it seemed such a small thing to trade for their happiness.”
By Saanvi Kulkarni, Grade 8, EJPN