Rummanah Aasi
Everything I Never Told You is a subtle, nuanced book. Its full impact and complexity is only evident after you have put all the pieces together and see the full picture. The book begins with the death of a teenage girl and then uses the mysterious circumstances of her drowning as way to examine the tensions and conflicts hidden beneath the calm surface of her Chinese-American family. While the premise of the book is something that we've already heard before, Ng addresses both racial and gender prejudices in her story to separate her books from the previous 'grief' books that came before. 

Description: 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.

Review: The Lee family do not quite fit in their Ohio college town and most likely never will. Their biracial identity (Caucasian and Chinese) has left people uneasy and has been a barrier for them to live happily. Always seen as outsiders, we see each member of the family strive to reach their individual dreams, deal with their own insecurities, as well as betrayals and yearnings. The life and death of Lydia mirrors how other family members are living their lives: under the mirage of contentment and pretending that everything is fine when things are clearly not. The Lees have failed to understand one another and maybe even themselves.  
 The mystery of Lydia unfolds in flashbacks as we see a teen who is not fitting in her school because of her "otherness" which leads her to pretend she has friends and become depressed; however, her parents see a promising student who could often be heard chatting happily on the phone; her siblings saw how she was doted on by her parents. Lydia also had a close relationship to her brother, Nath, but he was too focused on leaving their provincial college town and looking forward to a new start at college. The ripple effects of Lydia's disappearance and perhaps the glaring failures of the rest of the Lee family occur in the present day. I enjoyed reading this style of narrative that ebbed and flowed in both timelines quite seamlessly. I grew frustrated with the family particularly since effective communication could have solved a lot of their problems and saved a lot of heart ache. Reading this book was a lot like waiting for a tea pot to whistle as it reached its boiling point. I think this book would be a great choice for a book club discussion as there is a lot of different themes and topics to talk about. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and small sex scenes. Recommended for mature teens and adults.

If you like this book try: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas, We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
6 Responses
  1. This sounds like a good mystery and I like that it exposes the problems a teen can face when they feel like an outcast due to race or heritage. Thanks for sharing this one.

  2. Jenny Says:

    I'M IN AN OHIO COLLEGE TOWN RUMMANAH! Well, you can't really call Columbus a town so much as pretty big city, but still, we're a college city:) Characters failing to communicate effectively drives me crazy, so I'll likely share your frustration with that aspect, but I'm glad you enjoyed this one overall!

  3. Oh I so agree. This one would be great to discuss especially with teens. Brilly review!

  4. This sounds like an interesting overall read, Rummanah. I'm going to consider it for when I'm looking for something a bit more serious.

  5. Excellent review! I have not heard of this book (but that isn't surprising these days). But it is my thing. Relationships, family, possibly mental health. I'm glad you found it enjoyable. I know exactly what you mean when you wrote, "Reading this book was a lot like waiting for a tea pot to whistle as it reached its boiling point." I've felt that way often when reading. But I get what you mean with this one. I'm going to recommend this one to friends in book clubs.

  6. I'm glad you liked this one. I've heard so many people rave about it. It's on hold at the library for me right now. I worry that it'll be too depressing for my interests right now but I still want to read it.

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