Take a dive into “Everything I Never Told You”

“Lydia is dead.”

 Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler; the first sentence of the novel tells it straight up. There is no warning or no explanation, just the disappearance of the Lee family middle child on a normal morning.

 Still, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is not so much about the death of high school student Lydia Lee, but of the repercussions of the tragedy. The Lee family is seemingly put together for a mixed-raced family in the late 1970s in a white town, but Lydia’s death exposes unknown truths that tear the family apart by the seams.

 Lydia was always the favorite child in the family, which causes bitterness in her older brother Nath. He is the only one prior to Lydia’s death who knows what Lydia is hiding from their parents: her lack of friends, her slipping grades, and her association with one of the neighbors, Jack. In an attempt to deal with his grief, Nath puts the blame on Jack for what could have possibly happened to Lydia. However, this is only one conflict of many woven together throughout the length of the novel.

 Lydia’s death forces her parents, James and Marilyn, to reconsider their lives up until that moment and piece themselves back together. But miscommunication and doubt fractures their relationship even more. In the background of this tension is Hannah, the youngest and the most forgotten child, whose sharp intuition is one of the only reliable sources of information in the novel.

 The cruel reality of the Lee family’s relationship forms the crux of the story. Although it takes place in the 1970s, the pressures that Lydia faced as the golden child is faced by Asian-American teenagers all across the USA today. The forgottenness that Nath and Hannah feel is also a subject that many can likely relate to. The story is highlighted by the vastly different ways that the two characters deal with those feelings

 Racism is also a crucial part of the happenings of the novel and impacts the relationship between James, who is Chinese, and Marilyn, who is white, and their experiences with other people throughout their lives.

 Ng uses all of the various aspects and points of view to form a seamless tale, and ties the complex storyline together with her exquisite and visceral writing style.

 Everything I Never Told You is a novel that can be enjoyed by anyone, due to the appealing way that it approaches sensitive topics. For a debut novel, Celeste Ng did an excellent job in creating a story that touches the hearts and souls of her readers.