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Everything I Never Told You
May 23, 2023
TW: Death and Mental Health
There are so many things you wish to say in your lifetime, but there are so many things you don’t say out of fear, but in the end–when you’re on your last breath– you’ll regret all the words you never said. Everything I Never Told You is the story of a Chinese-American family trying to find their place and seeing the division between races. What appeared to be a perfect life to parents James and Marilyn began falling apart once their daughter Lydia left home and was found dead by the police.
This book takes you through an emotional rollercoaster of a family trying to find their place after dealing with the grief of their favorite child. The characters are so beautifully messed up and imperfect in every possible way, yet I found comfort in some of them.
Lydia had an odd family dynamic. She was what appeared to be the perfect child. She followed what her mother wanted for her without any question in order to not disappoint them. “People decide what you’re like before they even get to know you,” is one of the quotes that stuck out to me when reading the book. It’s so true and people judge before they even get to know someone. They never get to see the true, authentic side of someone because of their blind judgment. They choose who you are before even knowing.
People decide what you’re like before they even get to know you,
— Lydia Lee
The characters in this book are so well written that it’s hard to detach from them once you turn the last page. Nathan is the eldest in the Lee family. He has dreams and goals that his parents don’t find ideal. Though he’s the eldest, he lives in his sister’s shadow and no one acknowledges his presence or achievement.
Lydia Lee is the middle child. She’s the golden child. She never disagrees with her parents and follows their rules and expectations, though parts of her want to be freed. There’s this part of her longing to feel what it’s like to be herself but the fear of disappointment overruled her.
And my personal favorite is Hannah Lee, youngest child. She’s overlooked. For a more minor character, she had the biggest impact on me. Her parents don’t even realize she exists at times. She could slip away from their view and they wouldn’t bat an eye. She got the short end of the stick, dealing with her older sister’s death and then having to live with her parents’ grievance and her brother’s uncontrolling spiral of regret and anger towards the boy next door, Jack.
This book would fit anyone who has a feeling that they’re alone or going through a rough patch with their family. It gives you this sense of comfort knowing that these characters are on the same boat as you. And each character has aspects that are so relatable.