Everything I Never Told You; a solid but not earth-shattering debut

everything i never told youMy rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

I’ve read a lot of books lately that involve a missing person (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The Girl on the Train) but Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is actually less about how the girl in question, Lydia, has disappeared and focuses more on the family she has left behind. It’s well written and hooked me from the beginning, but it lacked the punchiness of Beside Ourselves (which uses such wonderful language) or the strong narrative of Girl on the Train (with its complicated characters and wonderfully unreliable narrator).

Everything I Never Told You is as much about raising children successfully as anything else. The questions it asks are profound and relevant, notably how far parents should live vicariously through their kids, pushing them towards things they didn’t have or couldn’t do as children themselves. It touches on how far we are shaped by being different (they are the only mixed race family in the neighbourhood in 1970s Ohio) and how we yearn to fit in, and the complicated decisions we make as a result. It’s her first novel – I look forward to reading her second – and a solid, but not earth-shattering debut.

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