Book Review // “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NgI only recently came across Celeste Ng through her Twitter account (@pronounced_ing) and her handle alone told me that I was gonna like this woman. She appeared on my timeline through a Goodreads post promoting her newest novel, Little Fires Everywhere. After scrolling through her profile and seeing her witty and poignant responses to the idiot in the White House also known as Donald Trump, the deal was done; I knew Celeste would be someone I wanted to hear the opinions of. Shortly after consuming her 140 character limit writing, I went on a mini library book spree and checked out her first novel, Everything I Never Told You, written in 2014. 

Everything I Never Told You tells the story of a mixed-race couple dealing with the death of their 16-year-old daughter, Lydia. Ng subtly fleshes out the themes of family, race, and marriage through her characters’ nuanced roles. She taps into what it means to be part of a mixed-race family, and how the way we are raised deeply influences how we raise our own children, for better or worse.

I remembered seeing this novel before and feeling drawn to it’s cover – the 4 scraps of paper with the blue gradient background portrayed the feeling of hidden information begging to be uncovered, perfectly complimenting it’s title. Aside from the cover of the book, the only other thing I knew of was the books opening lines, “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” How could someone not be drawn in immediately with an opening like that? One of my favorite aspects of this novel is how Ng toggles between different tenses, going from present  to future perfect and looping around to past all in one page. The grace with which she maneuvers the reader from one to the other is so seamless that it often goes unnoticed. It feels as if you get to step back from the immediate moment and see the novel from an omniscient perspective, viewing the character’s lives as a whole rather than as a series of chronological events following one after the other. This further allows you to understand the characters on a deeper level as  it describes how decisions made in the past have come to build the future we enter the novel in as present.

Ng’s writing flows so smoothly, and the mystery surrounding Lydia’s death pulls the reader in so thoroughly that it’s truly one of those books that you don’t want to stop reading. I’ll end this post with a review from the back cover written by Ru Freeman, author of On Sal Mal Lane and A Disobedient Girl:

“Celeste Ng leavens the bridge between the disappearance of a young girl, and the personal histories that precede it, with the larger canvas issues of race and gender, without straying from the riveting emotional territory that makes up the cornerstones of family: what is given, what is withheld, and what can never be known. Lydia Lee is every parent’s dream, fear, and devastation, wholly loved, just as completely lost. It is impossible to resist grieving alongside each one of these bereft, deeply realized characters, for we live their lives, and their story becomes ours from the first paragraph of this marvelous book.”

I look forward to reading Ng’s next book, Little Fires Everywhere when I can get my hands on it. In the meantime, I’m currently reading Mo Said She Was Quirky by James Kelman, author of How Late it Was, How Late – new post will be up once I’ve finished!





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