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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, 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 center of every party. When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no …

Overall Book Review:

Everything I Never Told You is Celeste Ng’s first book, but you wouldn’t know it. She writes with a lyrical and crystal clear style that really impressed me. I will admit that I wasn’t going to read this book at first; I started this book with low expectations, and I couldn’t have been more surprised at the story that lay within–one of love, hope, family, and loss.

Lydia Lee is the prize daughter of two adoring parents. She isn’t an only child, but she is obviously the favorite of her parents’ three children. With this favoritism come high expectations of success in school as well as in life. From the outside, Lydia is the epitome of perfect, but looks can be deceiving. Although she drops subtle hints that she doesn’t appreciate being in the spotlight, her mother and father continue to put pressure on her until it seems as though she might crack.   Then something terrible occurs and those around Lydia and the Lee family are left to pick up pieces of clues that seem to lead everywhere but the truth.

Secrets and guilt abound in this debut novel–two things that are often associated with mystery novels and thrillers. I felt a kinship with the entire Lee family as they experienced emotions ranging from shock to resignation. It was easy to relate to every member of the family and their point of view. Although this book isn’t a mystery per se, it does have the feel of one. This book is very diverse and teens might be drawn to it if they have an adult to point them in its direction.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  3 religious exclamations; 3 mild obscenities; 2 scatological words; 2 F-Word derivatives.

Violence/Gore:  A shooting is mentioned with no detail; a girl is briefly mentioned to have been strangled, with her clothes removed; a character goes missing and foul play is suspected; a character is found dead and suicide is suspected; characters get into a fist fight; a character is mentioned to have died from a stroke; surgery is described in brief detail

Sex/Nudity:  A girl is mentioned to “come on” to a boy, act seductively; adults kiss; minors are mentioned to kiss; a young man is mentioned to “deflower” young women; sex is implied several times; two bedroom scenes are briefly described with some brief innuendo (adult sexual activity without explicit detail); condoms are mentioned to have been found in a minors’ possession; a woman’s nude body is briefly mentioned in a clinical, non-sexual way; rape is mentioned in no detail.

Mature Subject Matter:

Death, divorce, personal crises.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Minors smoke; minors drink.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

Books and reading have always been an important part of my life. When I was very young, my grandma was the library director at our local public library. Years later, after she had retired, I became a librarian at the same library and worked there for several years before taking a part-time job at a local coffee shop, which gives me more time to do what I love, to read and to review books! A few of my favorite authors are Aimee Bender, Diane Chamberlain, and Curtis Sittenfeld however, I will read almost any book I come across! In my spare time you can find me reading (of course), volunteering at a wildlife animal rehab, or hanging out with my two house rabbits.