“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet,” is just the first enticing sentence that enthralls the thrill seeking novel of, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. The year is 1977, in a small town in Ohio where there is not much room for differences. The Lee children, Nath, Lydia, and Hannah are the only children in town who are oriental. Their dad, James, is Chinese and was raised by Chinese immigrants.Their mother, Marilyn, was raised by the typical homemaker mother. The two could not be more opposite, but with James’ want to conform to society and be normal, and Marilyn’s disgust for house wives and thirst to be different and defy society, they make the perfect attraction. However, everyone’s differences are set aside once Lydia, their middle child, is found dead at a bottom of the town lake.
What the Lee family presumed to be a normal day was also the same day where their worlds’ fell apart. Lydia was missing and they thought nothing more than she had just snuck out late at night. Despite their lack of concern, they still notified the police. With days passing, there was no news until the cops realized there was a rowboat missing. The missing rowboat lead to the discovery that late at night, Lydia had taken it to the middle of the lake and, one way or another, drowned. Ng intends for the reader to have their own interpretation of Lydia’s death and by explaining all the events that lead up to her taking the boat out late at night, it is evident that Ng did an outstanding job. Ng brilliantly has the reader decide if Lydia was a victim of drowning or if she committed suicide. This tactic of having the reader decide on accidental death or suicide was executed flawlessly, because, as the reader, I felt included and able to put myself in Lydia’s shoes. In my opinion, any author that can engage the reader enough to have them visualising themselves in the protagonist's position, has done a job well done.
The main focus of the book is not the event of Lydia’s death, it is the reasons why it happened and all of the events that lead up to it. Ng herself is oriental, which is what makes Lydia’s character even more real and relatable. Lydia is a misunderstood teenager that was not born with all of her demons, but was gradually affected by the way she lived her life, how others wanted her to live her life, and the way she was treated. Ng makes Lydia such an understandable character because she used pieces from her life and her emotions to create Lydia. The main focus of the book is not the event of Lydia’s death, it is the reasons why it happened and all of the events that lead up to it.
Ng does a superb job at using very sensitive subjects to enhance her story, which makes it relevant for all matured ages. Each character contains extreme depth and the way she has the story of every character affect Lydia’s life allows the reader to understand that perception and sympathy is key in life.
Celeste Ng makes this readable to those who want to fit in or even for those who want to be different and disregard who society makes them out to be. It is for those who are strongly affected by their family life and even for those who don’t have much family. It is a raw and relatable novel that had me wanting to read it over and over.