Thursday, July 31, 2014

Book Review: "Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste Ng


Characterization at its best

Celeste Ng's debut novel centers around a Chinese/American family in the late 70's. Their daughter is found dead under unclear circumstances. We learn not just what happened leading up to that day, but we also learn about the family's struggle—both family issues and the struggles that came with being a mixed family.

The novel is beautifully written. Once in a while we come across those writers who are able to express feelings and emotions that we may have felt, but simply never been able to put into words. I felt with the characters on such deep level both thanks to this, but also because the character's are complicated and described well. I sympathized with them all, but most of all with the kid sister, Hanna. So many times did I just want to stick my hands into the page, pull her out and hug her.

I gave this book 4 stars out 5, which is a pretty darn good grade. But the reason it didn't get that last star was the constant jumping back and forth between the past and the now and POV's. I like when novels incorporate multiple character's POV's. But when there are more than two, I feel there need's to be some structure to it. The POV-jumping happened several times per scene, and many times there were location-jumping before the scene was over. And by the time we were sent back to finish up the scene I had already forgotten about it. The time jumping happened just as often as well—in just a few pages it could go from present, to three days earlier, to five days later, to three days earlier, to ten years earlier, and present again. Added to that, the names were not different enough for me to keep track on who's mind we are currently in. James, Jack, Nath. Somehow those names became one single name, and not unique enough for me to notice when we had changed perspective. Same thing with Lydia and Marilyn.

Someone once told me "A reader should never be woken up from his dream." Well, I was woken up many more times than I would have liked to, when I had to go back to see who was talking, what year, time of the day, or what day of the week we were in. But it was a wonderful dream, and I am happy I got to experience it even if I had to fall back to sleep again several times to continue dreaming. I will look for Celeste Ng's second novel.

Author: Celeste Ng
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Release date: June 26, 2014

1 comment:

  1. Hi Katie,

    This sounds like a wonderfully expressive and emotional piece of writing, although Celeste might do well to heed the advice of her readers and critics and add a little more structure to her dialogue and timelines, when she writes her next book, the vote is split on the reviews I checked out about 50-50!

    The simplicity of the cover art is also very alluring, don't you think?

    A lovely review, thoughtful and considered.