Released on Jun. 26, 2014, “Everything I Never Told You” is the debut novel by Celeste Ng that tells a story about the death of teenager Lydia Lee, exposing her family’s secrets.
It might not be a relaxing or pleasant reading experience seeing as the story deals with the death of a family’s favorite daughter, but it’s a story worth reading.
Lydia is young, pretty and smart. Despite her smarts, she chooses to walk to a lake alone at midnight. As a result, she drowns and sinks to the bottom.
Set in the 1970’s in Ohio, the social background triggers the tragedy and struggle for each character. The racial discrimination and gender inequality forces the Lee family to grow closer together. They receive no well wishes or condolences, but instead receive coldness and gossip.
Both the parents and the children become socially isolated and lonely. The children have no friends at school, like Lydia pretended to. The parents deal with their unaccomplished dreams they place on their children, like graduating at the top of their classes and looking forwards towards their futures.
The author, Ng, is a very skillful storyteller, hooking the readers with the first sentence: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” It feels like she controls and manipulates every character’s fate in connected threads and compact rhythms. Also, her beautiful diction and description lights up the story’s tone and makes the plot flow smoothly.
The book isn’t too depressing, but I did feel a knot in my throat when reading, occasionally. One admirable character to look out for is Jack, as he stays true to himself throughout the novel.