Review: Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

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.

Everything I Never Told You is a gripping page-turner, about secrets, love, longing, lies and race.


RATING

4.2 STARS!

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

I think that this is the hardest book ever to review, because it carries such complex and important issues, that I am scared that my review will not serve enough justice. I try to collect my thoughts, mental note some powerful themes that are worth to be highlighted.

This is not only the story of Chinese-American family losing their teenage daughter, it is the story of racism, sexism and the consequences of family drama.

The Lee family comprises of James and Marilyn, with their children, Nathan, Lydia and Hannah. Lydia, being the middle and trophy child, faces the challenge which is to fulfill her parents’ expectations – her mother’s ambition to graduate from medical school and fight the norms of male domination in science field and her father’s which is to have the popularity that he never had as a teenager. James and Marilyn focus all their attention to Lydia, while totally ignoring Nathan and Hannah. They are complacent towards Nathan and Hannah’s childhood, ambitions and needs. It seems like they want to perfectly mould Lydia to become their living expectation, creating a heavy pressure towards her. Lydia, being a Chinese does not give her the speciality to stand out among her peers, involve in social activities etc.

However, when Lydia is found dead, all of parents’ dreams crumble. At that point of time, the family’s past and doings are disentangled. We get to observe each characters’ past and background that gives an insight on who they truly are as a person and what has changed them prior to Lydia’s death.

I appreciate how Celeste Ng crafts the story by the way of  “Show, don’t tell.” The readers have the chance to comprehend and understand the meaning of the ending abstractly. I love how Ng tackles the issue of womanhood, sexism and race in the book. Marilyn faces confusion to either chase her dreams to become a doctor or to leave her family behind. She wants to be extraordinary compared to everybody else but at the same time she also wants to be a wonderful wife and mother. She also faces prejudice from her male colleagues because they think Marilyn is not worthy for higher education. James on the other hand, fights his inner demons. He is deep down embarrassed that he is different from anybody else just because he has different skin colour and his parents are only “workers in the school”, instead of working in an elite class. He longs for friends, love and popularity.

This book is dark, emotional and heavy to read. I, myself find it difficult to read some parts of the book, mainly because they are very uncomfortable to read. I feel for Lydia so much, the similar feeling when we know that we let our parents down. Some people are not born with talents that their parents possess, that when we fail to exceed their expectations, the failure seems unacceptable for them. The last chapter infers that there is hope and better days to come after a storm.

This story teaches me that after an life-changing incident, we must collect our thoughts and move forward for the sake of our family members, instead of dwelling of the past and what is lost.

X

Sabrina

 

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2 thoughts on “Review: Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)

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