Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

“He pushed her in. And then he pulled her out. All her life, Lydia would remember one thing. All his life, Nath would remember another.” 

This book gave me a serious book hangover. It hit me very deeply, and I'm still not sure I've processed it enough to actually write about it, but I'm going to try.

The book opens with the knowledge that Lydia, daughter of Marilyn and James Lee, has died. Her body is pulled from a nearby lake, and while the authorities believe it to be a suicide, her parents are not ready to let her go that easily, especially Lydia's mother. Her siblings, Nath and Hannah, are in shock, and secrets begin to surface.

Prior to her death, Lydia was a good student and her mother had large dreams for her to go into medicine, something she had given up years before when she met and married James, and got pregnant shortly after. Lydia is her mother's beacon of a successful and happy like, and Marilyn would do anything to guarantee her daughter's success. James, on the other hand, really knows nothing about his family. He's a ghost in his own family as he focuses on his work at the local college. And while he wants the best for his children, he's not sure how to go about it. He wants them to be popular, to be successful, but has no experience with either given his own struggles growing up.

As for Lydia's siblings, little Hannah is all but forgotten by the other members of the family. She is pushed aside and often lingers in the shadows. Nath was probably Lydia's best friend until recently, but thinks she was hanging out with the wrong kind of guy. 

The book slowly unravels the secrets of the Lee family as the investigation continues and each of the family members comes to term with their own grief. It's heartbreaking. 

But as the characters grieve, we learn their secrets and that not everything is as it seems. It's a book about those secrets and the fact that even though you live with someone, talk to them, doesn't mean that you understand them and their struggles.

“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.” 

I think that stood out to me the most about this book. That family's do have secrets. I know there are things that I went through in my life that my siblings probably didn't, and still don't, know about. And vice versa. And I'm sure that there were times when my parents heard and felt and saw what they wanted to see from each of us. Or that we pretended to feel, see, or hear just to satisfy my parents. I think that's how family works. And this story solidifies that.

It's a powerful story, and one that I'm still thinking about a month later.

“All of that will be gone by morning. Instead, they will dissect this last evening for years to come. What had they missed that they should have seen? What small gesture, forgotten, might have changed everything? They will pick it down to the bones, wondering how this had all gone so wrong, and they will never be sure.”


  1. I've had my eye on this one for a while. The reviews I have seen of it have been so favorable. It sounds like a profound reading experience.

  2. I can't remember where I first saw this book, but I've apparently already got it on my to-investigate list, and I'm even more excited about it after this review!

  3. Man, this book blew me away. I started off thinking "I've read this book a hundred times before" - girl goes missing, family grieves and falls apart. But it ended up being SO much more. I still think about it almost half a year later!

  4. I do not think this book is marketed as a YA novel, but it is certainly a book that parents and teenagers may profitably read and discuss together. The issues are fresh and relevant, and I can imagine that meaningful discussions and insights may result. Highly recommended for all readers 14 and above.

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