Praise for Everything I Never Told You:
“If we know this story, we haven’t seen it yet in American fiction, not until now… Ng has set two tasks in this novel’s doubled heart—to be exciting, and to tell a story bigger than whatever is behind the crime. She does both by turning the nest of familial resentments into at least four smaller, prickly mysteries full of secrets the family members won’t share… What emerges is a deep, heartfelt portrait of a family struggling with its place in history, and a young woman hoping to be the fulfillment of that struggle. This is, in the end, a novel about the burden of being the first of your kind—a burden you do not always survive.”
— Alexander Chee, The New York Times Book Review
"Wonderfully moving... Writing in the third-person, Ng starts with the family’s history, laying the groundwork for Lydia’s death. She then moves seamlessly into the weeks beyond, excelling in her sensitive and detailed portraits of grief — the fatigue and disorientation, shock and anger — as Lydia’s survivors reel and slowly regain their footing. [...] Everything I Never Told You is a beautifully crafted study of dysfunction and grief."
"Ng skillfully gathers each thread of the tragedy, uncovering secrets and revealing poignant answers. A-"
A "cleverly crafted, emotionally perceptive debut ... Ng's themes of assimilation are themselves deftly interlaced into a taut tale of ever deepening and quickening suspense."
"There is much here that might impress Pulitzer and Man Booker judges ... Ng brilliantly depicts the destruction that parents can inflict on their children and on each other. ... Everything I Never Told You ranks with acute novels of family psycho-pathology such as Jane Hamilton’s A Map of the World and Laura Lippman’s What the Dead Know."
—MARK LAWSON, THE GUARDIAN
"Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is a powerhouse of a debut novel, a literary mystery crafted out of shimmering prose and precise, painful observation about racial barriers, the burden of familial expectations, and the basic human thirst for belonging. [...] Ng’s novel grips readers from page one with the hope of unraveling the mystery behind Lydia’s death -- and boy does it deliver, on every front. (9 out of 10)."
"From the first sentence of Celeste Ng’s stunning debut, we know that the oldest daughter of the Chinese-American Lee family has died. What follows is a novel that explores alienation, achievement, race, gender, family, and identity--as the police must unravel what has happened to Lydia, the Lee family must uncover the sister and daughter that they hardly knew. There isn’t a false note in this book, and my only concern in describing my profound admiration for Everything I Never Told You is that it might raise unachievable expectations in the reader. But it’s that good. Achingly, precisely, and sensitively written."
— Chris Schluep, Amazon.com Best Book of the Month, July 2014
“The mysterious circumstances of 16-year-old Lydia Lee’s tragic death have her loved ones wondering how, exactly, she spent her free time. This ghostly debut novel calls to mind The Lovely Bones.”
— Marie Claire
"[A]n accomplished debut... It's also heart-wrenching. Ng deftly pulls together the strands of this complex, multigenerational novel. Everything I Never Told You is an engaging work that casts a powerful light on the secrets that have kept an American family together — and that finally end up tearing it apart."
"It's hard to believe that this is a debut novel for Celeste Ng. She tackles the themes of family dynamics, gender and racial stereotyping, and the weight of expectations, all with insight made more powerful through understatement. She has an exact, sophisticated touch with her prose."
“Perceptive… a skillful and moving portrayal of a family in pain… It is to Ng’s credit that it is sometimes difficult for the reader to keep going; the pain and unhappiness is palpable. But it is true to the Lees, and Ng tells all.”
"Excellent... Ng's portrait of the relationship between Lydia and Marilyn, especially, feels true and fully realized... Ng deftly pulls together the strands of this complex, multigenerational novel."
— Chicago Tribune
"A subtle meditation on gender, race and the weight of one generation's unfulfilled ambitions upon the shoulders - and in the heads - of the next."
“Ng moves gracefully back and forth in time, into the aftermath of the tragedy as well as the distant past, and into the consciousness of each member of the family, creating a series of mysteries and revelations that lead back to the original question: what happened to Lydia? ... Ng is masterful in her use of the omniscient narrator, achieving both a historical distance and visceral intimacy with each character’s struggles and failures … She creates a work of ambitious complexity. In the end, this novel movingly portrays the burden of difference at a time when difference had no cultural value… Compelling.”
“Impressive… In its evocation of a time and place and society largely gone but hardly forgotten, Everything I Never Told You tells much that today’s reader should learn, ponder and appreciate.”
“Quiet and intense… A family drama that reveals its secrets slowly, drawing you in.”
"Much of the intellectual weight of this deeply moving novel comes from Ng's clear-eyed exploration of the shaping force of her characters' ethnicity, but it's also an unforgiving revelation of the prejudice that surrounds them. [...] Celeste Ng has made us care enough that we too hope for the possibility of healing."
"Both a propulsive mystery and a profound examination of a mixed-race family, Ng's explosive debut chronicles the plight of Marilyn and James Lee after their favored daughter is found dead in a lake."
— Entertainment Weekly, "Must List"
"Everything I Never Told You moves with the velocity ... of a great literary mystery. [...] But the emotional core of Celeste Ng’s debut is what sets it apart. [...] With a deft hand, she loads and unpacks the implications of being the only Chinese American family in a small town in Ohio."
“[A] moving tale… of daughters for whom cultural disconnect is but the first challenge.”
"Thrilling... Everything I Never Told You explores difficult issues with graceful and poignant storytelling. ... Ng's debut novel is not only an enthralling page turner that you won't be able to put down, but also a touching portrait of a fractured family finding their way back to each other at last."
"No sudden realisations, but the gradual peeling back of the layers is no less compelling as we crawl towards the inevitable conclusion in Ng’s portrait of a brittle family and the burden of difference."
"[O]ne of the most remarkable debut novels that I have ever read... Celeste Ng has written about these intense emotional events with just the right delicate, touch. ... Her writing is eloquent and her plotting reflects a craftsmanship one would expect from a more seasoned writer. Most of all, she has created a fresh, original story."
"[B]y suffusing her crime thriller with issues of gender and race, Ng does succeed in doing something new. ... [I]t is clear to see why Everything I Never Told You has topped Amazon's 100 best books for 2014. Let's just hope Ng decides to tell us another story again soon."
"Ng dissects the dynamics of the Lee family and examines race and gender in small-town ’70s Ohio through characters who are utterly real and emotionally convincing."
"Celeste Ng recounts this tragically sad story with sympathy and style and, in its denouement, a real sense of redemption."
— TORONTO STAR
"This emotionally involving debut novel explores themes of belonging using the story of the death of a teenage girl, Lydia, from a mixed-race family in 1970s Ohio. [...] Lydia is remarkably imagined, her unhappy teenage life crafted without an ounce of cliché. Ng’s prose is precise and sensitive, her characters richly drawn."
— ★ Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Ng constructs a mesmerizing narrative that shrinks enormous issues of race, prejudice, identity, and gender into the miniaturist dynamics of a single family. A breathtaking triumph, reminiscent of prophetic debuts by Ha Jin, Chang-rae Lee, and Chimamanda Adichie, whose first titles matured into spectacular, continuing literary legacies."
— ★ Library Journal (starred review)
"Tantalizingly thrilling, Ng’s emotionally complex debut novel captures the tension between cultures and generations with the deft touch of a seasoned writer. Ng will be one to watch."
— ★ Booklist (starred review)
"Lydia is dead. So starts this compelling tearjerker that is a mystery buried inside a painful family drama. [...] Hand this one to fans of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones (Little, Brown, 2002), and tell them to read it with a box of tissues close at hand."
— ★ School Library Journal (starred review)
"Ng ... keeps an admirable grip on the narrative's many strands as she expertly explores and exposes the Lee family's secrets: the dreams that have given way to disappointment; the unspoken insecurities, betrayals and yearnings; the myriad ways the Lees have failed to understand one another and, perhaps, themselves. These long-hidden, quietly explosive truths, weighted by issues of race and gender, slowly bubble to the surface of Ng's sensitive, absorbing novel and reverberate long after its final page. Ng's emotionally complex debut novel sucks you in like a strong current and holds you fast until its final secrets surface."
"In a quietly shattering debut, Celeste Ng pulls readers into an American family whose lives are shaped not by a tremendous skeleton lurking in the closet, but by the smothered dreams and fears of inadequacy lurking in their own hearts. ...Ng delves into the human tendency to mask and bandage our insecurities, and the damage we inflict on ourselves and our relationships by not admitting our fears and dreams aloud. ... Ultimately filled with the promise of renewal, this delicately crafted drama destroys, only to heal."
"Ng’s deftness with detail draws the reader close into the family’s struggle to understand. ... [H]er pinpoint precision on the feelings and actions after loss make for a very strong and emotional debut that will linger in the mind."
"As Ng deftly paints a powerful yet tender portrait of a family torn apart, she simultaneously delves into the way culture and race change relationships as well. But the best part is that Ng subtly weaves all of this into the story, while avoiding clichés or a too-heavy tone. For an intriguing but very accessible glimpse into human psychology, this one’s got our seal of approval."
"A brisk timely tale of racial conflict and filial expectations. Though heavy themes, [Ng] has a light and sure-footed touch, a masterful talent for plotting that makes the pages turn. ... More than a mystery, Ng also makes the revelations of the Lee family real and urgent as the story unfolds. ...'Lydia is dead' is just the beginning. It is the unfortunate consequence and cause that sets off an entire family’s search for the cracks in the walls of a domestic life that had been waiting to collapse."
"Ng (pronounced 'ing') is a gifted storyteller but an even more gifted character-builder. [...] Everything I Never Told You is a book that has a lot to say. It explores the challenges of an interracial family in 1970’s America. It’s also about the pressure and problems of being both the middle child and the favorite child. It’s about what it means to be a girl and a woman, and how it feels to be different. Ng doesn’t have any easy solutions or platitudes about grief and redemption. She gives us characters who are fully developed, whose grief is palpable and believable."
"Subtly exquisite... Everything I Never Told You is the perfect title—it’s plump with every characters’ wretched, deafening secrets. ... This is a terrifically nuanced, haunting novel that is practically begging for its own film adaptation."
"[Shows] how racism and sexual repression haunts and wounds... Everything I Never Told You is an attractive corner-lot Craftsman home of a novel, its carefully constructed sentences serving a carefully intricate plot. ... Ng plainly exposes the bigotry of American culture at the time."
Praise from Authors and Booksellers:
“Celeste Ng tells a story weighted by death and grief that is vital in all the essential ways; these characters betray and love blindly and are needy and accuse and forgive. They are achingly human, and Ng's writing about them is tender and merciless all at once. At the same time, her story is also about what it means to live in two worlds at the same time, to be Asian and American, an insider and an outsider, and Ng writes about all this and more with terrific nuance.”
— JESMYN WARD, NATIONAL BOOK AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF SALVAGE THE BONES
"I couldn’t stop reading Everything I Never Told You… the writing is so smooth and keenly-observed. The portrait of each member of the Lee family, the exploration of their mixed-race issues and the search for the killer of their sister and daughter, Lydia, pulled at my heartstrings to the very end."
— UWEM AKPAN, AUTHOR OF THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM
“Celeste Ng leavens the bridge between the disappearance of a young girl, and the personal histories that precede it, with the larger canvas issues of race and gender, without straying from the riveting emotional territory that make up the cornerstones of family: what is given, what is withheld, and what can never be known. Lydia Lee is every parent’s dream, fear, and devastation, wholly loved, just as completely lost. It is impossible to resist grieving alongside each one of these bereft, deeply realized characters, for we live their lives, and their story becomes ours from the first paragraph of this marvelous book.”
— RU FREEMAN, AUTHOR OF A DISOBEDIENT GIRL AND ON SAL MAL LANE
“Everything I Never Told You is a suspenseful and emotionally complex literary mystery novel, which, weaving back and forth in time, unlocks the secrets beneath the surface of family life. Celeste Ng has written a compellingly tense and moving first book.”
— DAN CHAON, AUTHOR OF AWAIT YOUR REPLY
“A poignant, utterly compelling novel about the losses suffered by those in our society who are different in any way. Everything I Never Told You documents, in beautifully observed and moving detail, the ways in which our parents’ frustrations and desires warp and create our own. An astonishingly gripping and mature debut.”
— EILEEN POLLACK, AUTHOR OF BREAKING AND ENTERING
“Everything I Never Told You is a brilliant debut novel by Celeste Ng, which tells the seemingly-simple story of a half-Asian, half-Caucasian family living in Ohio in the 1970s. When the eldest daughter is discovered dead at the bottom of the lake, the family questions their every move, all the while wondering if it was a suicide or a murder or an accident. Through flashbacks, we discover that this family holds secrets, and as we witness the past through their various viewpoints, we eventually discover the tragic truth. Not only a great literary mystery, Everything I Never Told You is also a brilliant examination on life in a mixed race family in America and the tribulations people of race encounter on an everyday basis. Truly, a brilliant, un-put-downable debut!”
— Bill Carl, Booksellers on Fountain Square (Cincinnati, OH)
“Once upon a time there was a Chinese man (James) who married a Caucasian woman (Marilyn) moved to a small Ohio college town to live happily ever after. The only problem is that their children are anything but, and now their middle child, Lydia, on whom both of them had pinned all their hopes and dreams, is dead, drowned in the nearby lake. Marilyn put all her hopes and dreams of Lydia having the medical career she herself gave up. James hoped that with her blue eyes, she’d be the popular kid he never was, a lone Asian in a sea of White people. Their son Nathan suspects that Jack, the neighbor kid who spent time alone with Lydia in his car, is somehow connected. The pieces of the puzzle might lie in another fateful time, when Marilyn disappeared for several months. This delicately written, character-driven story is an interesting portrait of the seventies, when Chinese folks were still uncommon in the heartland, and the racial, as well as gender, prejudices took a toll on their victims. Heartbreaking, yes, but also hopeful.”
—Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company (Milwaukee, WI)
“Everything I Never Told You is utterly captivating, a look at the fractures of family and identity under the pressure of devastating loss. It’s mysterious, thoughtful, starkly honest and almost brutal, using the knife of a crime to dissect and expose a suburban life…. [a] sort of a life-by-crime novel that uses the one to pry the lid off the other.”
—Camden Avery, The Booksmith (San Francisco, CA)
"Ng packs mystery into [the first] two sentences with an effortlessness that seems unfair. EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU is a tense domestic drama ... Ng uses Lydia’s death to explore headier ideas about race and gender, while familiar historical events—the launch of Gemini 9, the death of Elvis, the capture of David Berkowitz—rush past, barely noticed by the characters as they struggle with personal tragedy. Like all of us, the Lees swim in history, but what sense does any of it make when loss puts stones in our pockets and drags us under?"
—Benjamin Rybeck, Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)
“What happens when a family constellation loses a star? Do the others fall out of orbit or pull closer together? When sixteen-year-old Lydia disappears, her Chinese-American father and American mother can barely speak to one another. Lydia’s brother and younger sister try to stay below the radar. Each of them knows something about Lydia’s life—the pressure to be someone she’s not, to live the life in science that slipped through her mother’s grasp, to be popular, not an outsider like her father. And what does their wild neighbor Jack know about Lydia—was he really the last to see her? So many secrets, so many questions—personal struggles, cultural struggles, and a tragic mystery to solve, this is a compulsively readable debut.”