I am sure that Celeste Ng is a nice person, and I am glad that she has found success as an author, but I did not like this book. In fact, talking about this book makes me downright angry. If I had to describe in one word my thoughts about this book (which I will do next week at my local library book club, because that’s how we roll) I would say “tiresome.” I would also cheat and add two more words “emotionally manipulative.”
I lost count the number of times I rolled my eyes listening to the audiobook. I understand this book was supposed to be about complicated family dynamics, and things that go unsaid, because the on the nose title “everything I never told you” hit you over the head with that, but it was like all the characters sealed themselves off from communication and vulnerability for the tiniest reasons, and then refused to make any effort, and settled in as hostages to their own emotional and fabricated misery. USE. YOUR. WORDS. No one was so terrible of a person, or so unsympathetic, that it was understandable why they wouldn’t want to try to express themselves.
And Lydia. We hear for pages, about how much she wants to leave town, and how having a learner’s permit will give her a tiny bit of hope in her suffocating life, and what does she do? SHE DOESN’T EVEN STUDY FOR THE TEST. So she fails. Again, lack of effort + succumbing to non-existent, or self-created obstacles, leads to desolation.
And the reason that Lydia ended up at the bottom of the lake? DUUUUUUUUMB. If there had been foul play, that would have been interesting. If she had killed herself out of hopelessness that would have fit with the narrative. But she went out in the lake, knowing she can’t swim, to then decide that she would try to swim back, at night, in the pitch black, because that was what she “needed to do” to then be able to go back, tell her dad she didn’t have any friends, tell her mom she didn’t want to be a doctor, tell her brother she was sad he was going to college, and everything would be okay. It was, in my estimation, asinine, even for a confused teenage girl, and emotionally manipulative. It reminded me of the end of Nicholas Sparks’ “Message in a Bottle” where things COULD have been fine for everyone, after all the drama, and misunderstandings, and whatever, but the dude just HAD to go out on the choppy ocean to throw a bottle with his a message for his dead wife, and of course, he drowned saving a family who had fallen out of the boat.
So, as is evident, this book wasn’t for me. The writing was fine, if a bit too flowery and detailed, but I didn’t think the characters decisions or motivations made any sense and I just wanted to clunk all their heads together.