I am very excited to take part in the blog tour for Celeste Ng's book Everything I Never Told You. This is the author's debut and she is clearly off to a good start as it is brilliantly written and executed. Here's the blurb:
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.
When I read the above blurb I made the presumption that the book was a thriller/mystery which in many ways it is but it is a lot deeper than that, the questions asked by the author are far more interesting than a 'whodunnit'.
We know from the beginning of the book that Lydia is dead, her body is found in the lake by the Lee's house. The reader has no idea what happened though and the rest of the book looks into the events that led up to Lydia's death. Lydia's parents James and Marilyn both have very definite ideas of what they want for Lydia's future and they are purely selfish, borne out of their own frustrations. Marilyn wanted to be doctor but she met James and became pregnant, she tried again after her first two children but again found herself to be expecting. Due to this she never finishes medical school so she puts her career aspirations on to Lydia, going as far as buying her a stethoscope for her thirteenth birthday. James on the other hand has done well in his career, he has tenure as a college professor but he is deeply unhappy as he has never gained the popularity that he has yearned for. The colour of his skin made him an outcast at his school and he has never got over this. He wants Lydia to be the popular girl, surrounded by friends, being picked for teams and having a full social life. Lydia is so young to have these pressures from her parents plus she has the normal pressures of being a teenage girl, a fact that seems to have escaped both parent.
I hugely disliked Marilyn and James and I think this is probably the author's intention but my main issue with them wasn't necessarily their treatment of Lydia but more their complete lack of regard for their other two children. They seem indifferent to Nath and Hannah most of the time even though both are clearly lovely children and high achievers also. Nath has just got into Harvard and is clearly relieved to be leaving the family home, Hannah is the quietest yet she knows the most but they don't think to ask her. Hannah knows what happened to Lydia and this made me feel incredibly sad too as it seemed such a big burden for her to be carrying around.
Celeste Ng writes confidently and the book had an excellent pace. I think that all of the questions she raised in the book are credible, she looks at race, inequality of the sexes, ambition and parental responsibility, all of which effectively lead to Lydia's death. This book really made me think about the role of the parent, you always want the best for your child and for them to do well in life but there is a fine line between that and pushing them into being somebody they're not. Lydia wants to please both Marilyn and James which ultimately is impossible, she does not have their support to just be Lydia.
I would highly recommend Everything I Never Told You, it is well written and thought provoking. Lydia's character was particularly poignant and one that will stay with me for a long time.
Thank you to the lovely Emily at Little Brown for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Everything I Never Told You is available now.