Everything I Never Told You is a breezy, intelligent read

As a busy high school junior with a passionate love for reading, I often find myself in a difficult quandary.  I regularly have mountains of homework topped with practices, rehearsals, and a plethora of other commitments. The usual challenge is that I simply do not have the time in my schedule to read. And when I do, my brain is so bone-weary that I find it hard to comprehend the intelligent books that I genuinely enjoy to read.  

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng was my wonderful, wonderful exception.

This novel, recommended to me by a fellow literary enthusiast, follows the story of the Lees, a Chinese-American family of five living in the quintessential example of small-town Ohio in the 1970s. However, the reader is aware that this story will not be one of psychedelic sunshine and hippie happiness when the very first words are “Lydia is dead.”

The reader is aware that this story will not be one of psychedelic sunshine and hippie happiness when the very first words are “Lydia is dead.””

The “Lydia” in question is the seventeen-year-old middle child of the Lee family. She is found at the bottom of the lake, located just behind her family’s home. Her drowning comes as a complete surprise to Lydia’s four other family members, and they are forced to question not only what they knew about Lydia, but also what they know about themselves.

Mastery of plot is certainly one of Ng’s fortes, as demonstrated through this novel. Clocking in at just under 300 pages, the depth of the story’s plot is even more impressive considering how short the book actually is.

Not only do the contents of the story exceed expectations, but the pacing of the plot is equally astounding. The book is not told in a completely linear manner, as time is played with a little bit, but the central storyline does not suffer at all. I felt completely engaged and bound to the narrative the entire time. The suspense that was in place was expertly written to entice the reader.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Ng’s character building. Each of the main family members had their own unique presence and purpose. Throughout the course of the novel, their respective flaws were revealed. Each of their specific motivations, fears, hopes, and hidden truths come more and more into focus as the book progresses.

I felt as though none of the characters were archetypal. It was refreshing to not only read about culturally diverse characters but internally idiosyncratic ones as well.

Another reason I enjoyed this book was that it satiated my horribly-stubborn inner book snob. I tend to be rather pretentious when it comes to novels; I don’t like to read “brainless” books. Everything I Never Told You is most definitely a book for more advanced readers. The word choice and sentence structure were divine and complex. However, the book was not challenging. It was a very quick read while still remaining mentally stimulating. I could understand everything that was occurring without thinking too hard, but I still had material to ponder when I set the book down.

Ng’s novel is great for those who like to jump between genres. Part mystery. Part historical fiction. Part family drama. It definitely is classified as one of those stories where there is something in it for everyone.

I found continuous enjoyment in Everything I Never Told You, and it will most definitely find a permanent place on my bookshelf.