Book Review – Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You
By Celeste Ng
Blackfriars Books
Rating: *****

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; 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 centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest in the family – Hannah – who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened.


Everything I Never Told You is a modern fresh take on a family drama. When the Lee’s middle child Lydia goes missing and is found dead the family are broken, but it seems the Lee family was broken before this tragedy and not one of the family members seem to be happy. The novel unravels all the family’s secrets, desires, regrets and longings from their past and present.

This book made me realise that you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and how well do you really know your family? Even your own parents or children? The Lee’s don’t seem like a happy family at all, James the father is cheating on his wife Marilyn, Hannah the youngest feels ignored and so does the eldest James and Lydia is dead. James the father is of asian decent, all his life he has felt lonely, rejected and judged so all he wants for his daughter is friends, for her to be “normal” because he never felt like he was. As for Marilyn the mother, her hopes and dreams of becoming a scientist were shattered when she formed a family. She really regrets not fulfilling her dreams so pushes these dreams onto Lydia. Both parents pressuring her and forcing things upon her just to make their lives seem worthwhile and better.

The dynamic of the Lee family was never stable. Marilyn got with James because it would annoy her mother, James got with Marilyn because she was a white american, she was “normal”. Neither are happy with themselves or their own lives, I don’t think this is a good way to begin any relationship let alone a family. Their regrets, sadness, lonliness and everything else negative bubble up and up and up and finally they take it out on their own children, the ones they are supposed to love, protect and keep happy, the ones who they are supposed to support with any decision they choose to make. Their family is built on a platform of regrets, resentment, a need for normalcy, crushed dreams and sadness instead of a platform of love, happiness and acceptance.

This book isn’t really about Lydia’s death, it’s more about the intricate workings of a family life. This isn’t a murder mystery novel with a case to solve, its about family putting pressure on their children, secrets, regrets, assumptions, jealousy, pleasing people, race, identity, loneliness, dreams and so much more. This book has so much depth to it and it is very thought provoking and I loved reading it so much.

It is a beautiful and sad story, I was so engrossed and captured with the story lines and characters it only took me a few days to read. This is the first Celeste Ng book I have read and I can’t wait to read more of her novels, Little Fires Everywhere is now on my list. This novel really blew me away and it will stick with me for a long time.

Have you read this or anything by Celeste Ng? Do you like her writing style and story lines? Katie x

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