The time has come the blogger said to read of many thFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Actual rating: 3.5 stars
The time has come the blogger said to read of many things. Of scheming wizards, of amulets and queens. The Seven Realms series has been one of the big holes in my YA reading. Friends have been urging it on me strenuously this year, and very suddenly the time came for me to read it. As I was warned, The Demon King is a bit slow, but, by the end, it was really picking up speed.
Slow almost doesn’t seem like the right word. The Demon King wasn’t boring and it didn’t really feel like a slog; it’s just that becoming at all invested took quite a while. Third person limited narration can be a bit distancing, because the personalities aren’t all up in my face. Plus, in a novel like this, there’s a large cast to meet and remember. Not to mention that some of them have multiple names, which does not make anything easier for the reader, dear Clan members.
As my friends told me, the number one draw to Seven Realms is the amazing treatment of gender in the series, which is already apparent. The Fells is ruled by a line of queens and has been for generations. Women can obtain any career that men can and are equally represented in the Guard. There’s almost no sexism towards either gender in the Fells. Most of the Clan leaders are female as well. Kingdoms in the south view women as lesser, and they’re considered with skepticism and judgment by the people of the Fells. It’s really a beautiful thing.
The Fells is also super chill for the most part regarding kissing and sex. My favorite thing about Raisa is that she’s building a little reverse harem of boys to kiss, and she doesn’t think a thing is wrong with that. She knows she’ll have to make a political marriage and might need to keep her “virtue” intact for that if she marries someone from the south, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have fun.
The romance obviously will be pretty important to the series, but nothing’s sure yet. I actually am not positive if I can call the ships yet. I thiiiiink the main ship is going to be the obvious one, but I wouldn’t bet anything on that yet. Mostly, I suspect this will be one of those books where I ship everyone with everyone, because yes. For the moment, they’re a wee bit young, but I will probably cease to care about that in book two.
So far as the characters go, I’ve not completely fallen in love yet, but I can see myself getting there. I do love that the teens go to adults when they can and that it’s not teens alone saving the kingdom. Raisa and Han don’t always make the best choices, but they always try really hard and do the best they know how to. What I do think is so great about them is that neither of them is the best at things. They fool people into thinking they are with swagger and determination.
For most of the book, the plot moved pieces around to set up the series. The big things were really obvious. I knew what Han’s secret was from the very beginning. I also knew who the villain was. They were so clearly broadcast I don’t even feel the least bit clever for figuring it out. That, too, made the pace feel slower than I think it actually was. However, it’s a great foundation for what’s to come.
When I put down The Demon King, I immediately wanted to pick up The Exiled Queen. What else is there to say, really, than that?...more
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place was the sort of middle grade nFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place was the sort of middle grade novel I simply had to read. Mostly because I snicker every time I read the word “prickwillow” because I’m a very mature, grown up sort of person. Not to mention the fact that historical novels are fabulous and scandalous girls are generally pretty fun. Who wants non-scandalous heroines? If I want to read about boring girls who make boring choices, I could write a book about my childhood. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is every bit the “rollicking farce” promised in the book’s blurb, and it was an utter delight.
Farces are not everyone’s tea and scones. Frankly, tea and scones are not my tea and scones. The Scandalous Sisterhood is utterly madcap and ridiculous. If you like things to be neat and orderly and realistic, this book will seem like a bit of silliness and be frustrating. Personally, I don’t so much mind my books not making a lick of sense so long as they’re doing so intentionally.
The book opens with the death of the indomitable Mrs. Plackett and her brother, Mr. Godding. The girls of the school then decide that, rather than risk being sent to their various homes, they will pretend that nothing is amiss, so they bury them in the garden. It’s obvious from page one that this will not work out as planned, but it sets a hilarious romp in motion and I am all for it. Serious mysteries often fail to capture my attention, but I was totally on board for everything happening in The Scandalous Sisterhood.
The characters, though not fully fleshed out, are more developed than the adjectives attached to their names might indicate. There’s more to Smooth Kitty than her smoothness, to Dull Martha than her lack of intelligence, to Disgraceful Mary Jane than her flirting. The character names are often said in conjunction with their adjective, and, though not my favorite aspect, it also did help keep the girls separate in my head. I think it also beautifully highlights the reasons that these girls have been shipped off to St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls by their families; they’ve been cast as one-dimensional and not worth keeping about. The course of the book shows how much more there is too them.
The best surprise of The Scandalous Sisterhood was the shippiness. I totally do not expect a lot of shipping in my middle grade novels. Actually, I think The Scandalous Sisterhood sits on the border between middle grade and YA, and that YA readers should consider this too, even if they don’t generally do middle grade. Most of the girls get a ship of some sort. It’s also nice that not all of them sail, so it’s not a total pairing off. I think my favorite was the hilarious pairing of Dour Elinor with a young man who excels in the funerary arts. The romance isn’t the largest element, but I super appreciated it being there.
I actually received a print ARC of The Scandalous Sisterhood as well, but, due to all the BEA books, I didn’t manage to get to it in time. Then I had the option of the audiobook, and I could not resist. This was a most excellent choice, though I’m positive the book is just as much fun in print. Jayne Entwhistle fulfills my three main qualifications for an excellent narrator: 1) she’s completely willing to be silly, 2) she does a fabulous job with voices, and 3) she’s British. This audiobook was such a pleasant way to pass the time.
The Scandalous Sisterhood was the perfect bit of silliness. It’s been a long time since I read a farce, and it was so perfect for my mood....more
I would be lying if I said I had any interest in Nightmares! aside from theFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
I would be lying if I said I had any interest in Nightmares! aside from the fact that Jason Segel wrote it. Have I been disappointed in innumerable celebrity books in the past? Why, yes. Do I think that actors are necessarily talented authors? In many cases, probably not. Will I ever learn? Unlikely. But, hey, sometimes celebrity books aren’t just capitalizing on fame for a book deal; sometimes they’re good. It’s true that Jason Segel’s narration was a big part of my enjoyment, but Nightmares! is also a great middle grade story in its own right.
My intro was all about Jason Segel, but I am very aware that he’s not the sole author. I suspect much of the credit, perhaps most, is due to Kirsten Miller. She’s an established author and I’ve heard good stuff about How to Live a Life of Crime. Obviously I don’t know who did what, but the two obviously made a great team. Nightmares! is both delightfully silly and surprisingly deep.
I must admit that I didn’t find the nightmare landscape all that thrilling. The various monsters don’t have what it takes to scare me, despite me being a scaredy cat. The things that amused and terrified me as a kid aren’t the same as what get me now. Though the giant cockroach was still upsetting. I’ll give them that. Of course, the giant cockroach was a nice nightmare, and I would still spray it with RAID until it stopped twitching. NOT OKAY. For that reason, the adventurey parts were not hugely interesting to me.
However, I do love what the nightmares stand for. Sure, the nightmares are horrors and in and of themselves, especially when they can interact directly with the kids, but they actually represent deeper and more logical fears. There’s a reason that Paige is afraid of the dark and that Charlie’s witch looks like his stepmother. The book really considers the way the human mind will create a fear to mask the one that really bothers us. Rather than dealing with the sadness over a parents’ death, for example, a kid might be afraid of the dark.
Nightmares! is probably best compared to Monsters, Inc. The set up is actually really similar. There’s a whole industry built up to keep kids scared every night while they dream. However, most nightmares are actually trying to help the kids deal psychologically and get over their fears. Unfortunately, evil nightmares are trying to take over to keep kids scared. I thought that it was cool how not all nightmares are bad, except, you know, for the cockroach because they should all die and are never acceptable.
The real reason I enjoyed this so much, though, was Jason Segel. The best audiobook narrators, I think, are not only willing but delighted to sound completely ridiculous. This is why Katherine Kellgren is one of the best narrators of all time. Jason Segel, as you might guess from his performances is just such a narrator. He does all sorts of crazy voices and reads with a lot of emotion. He’s just fun to listen to. His voices for females are pretty abominable, but otherwise his performance was perfection.
Nightmares! is a sweet book about family and overcoming your fears. It’s also really awesome on audiobook....more
The mixed reviews of Red Queen and the designation ofFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Actual rating: 2.5 stars
The mixed reviews of Red Queen and the designation of “crack book” from Gillian (Writer of Wrongs) tempted me into reading it, despite my better judgment. Often, this sort of daring works in my favor, but I can’t say this was one of those times. I was not hugely impressed with Red Queen and slogged through it, even when shit hit the fan at the end.
The strongest element of Red Queen was most definitely the plotting. Red Queen excels at the twisty and unexpected. I was constantly floored by the turns that the plot took. It was surprisingly dark and startling. The end especially was just like whoa. Aveyard puts down a really nice foundation for everything too, so it all fits together really well.
The one caveat on the plot is a bit spoilery, so I’m going into the tags for this. (view spoiler)[When Mare’s outed as having powers publicly, the monarchy launches a cover-up. They claim that Mare is actually Mareena, the long lost child of Silvers, raised by Reds. Supposedly, Mareena had no idea that she was a Silver. Fun plot, sure, because she gets to go undercover and hijinks can ensure. However, it makes no fucking sense whatsoever. Reds and Silvers have different blood, red and silver respectively (can you possibly guess which has which?). Am I really supposed to believe that Mareena never broke her skin in a fall or pricked herself with a needle or got a papercut? What about her period? There’s no way that a girl her age wouldn’t know what color her blood was, especially if she blushes as often as Mare does. (hide spoiler)]
The world building is a bit sketchy, but fun enough. Though looking hard I could poke some holes in it, suspending disbelief was totally doable. The concept of the silverbloods and their powers is obviously total Christina-bait. Basically anything X-Men-ish appeals to me greatly. The various powers are really cool and the battles between those of different abilities were super cool. Much of the world building, though, is delivered through clumsy infodumps, which come apropos of nothing currently occurring.
Despite these strong foundations, I found every single character incredibly boring. Mare most of all. There’s really no overcoming that. It was one of those cognitive dissonance books where I KNEW I should be really into what was happening, but my eyes kept glazing over anyway. This is one of those books where no one seems to have any interests aside from survival, which means that no one really seems to have any personality. Mare’s only really sign of personality seems to come from her jealousy of her younger sister, who she later mostly forgets about.
Again, I should have loved the romance. It’s a reverse harem of monstrous proportions. There are the two princes, Cal and Maven, both of whom are expressing interest. Then there’s her hot guard, Lucas, who, though not canonly an interest, totally could be. Then, least of all, there’s Kilorn, her best friend from her Red village. Just know that my brain immediately cast Finn from The 100 as this guy, so he’s basically the worst ever.
KILORN. The names in this book are incredibly frustrating. Kilorn’s name is by far the most annoying, though Mare, aka grown female horse, is a close second. Of course, Mare’s parents just suck at naming humans, because their other kids are Gisa, Bree, Shade, and Tramy. The latter three are boys. What the fuck is a Tramy? Like what even. And amongst all the ridiculous fantasy names are people like Lucas and Julian, which makes it worse for me. The names were really distracting.
The other issue with Red Queen is the use of italics. Red Queen is told in Mare’s first person present POV. Despite that, she still thinks to herself in italics, even though we are ostensibly in her head and experiencing things live with her. The entire thing ought to be her thoughts and experiences. More confusingly, italics are sometimes used for random emphasis on a particular word, like the word sparks; you’ll later learn why this was done, but it’s still just the worse, because it looks like other words are being clarified. More problematically, some people can talk inside Mare’s head, and those conversations are shown using italics. I honestly don’t know how many people can do this, because I couldn’t begin to tell which italics were Mare thinking and which were her conversing with others.
Red Queen‘s a hot mess. If you find the characters the least compelling, you’ll probably really enjoy it. I’m intrigued enough that I might find myself reading the next book in the series, but I can’t guarantee I’ll still have even that much interest in another year.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Not gonna lie, I was scared of this book. I mean, eveFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Actual rating: 4.5 stars
Not gonna lie, I was scared of this book. I mean, everyone has been loving it and I have been known, very occasionally, to be the black sheep of my little corner of the interwebs. For the record, I hate being the black sheep. Every Breath seemed a bit suspect too, because, while the thrilling word “ship” came up a lot, it came hand in hand with the word “Sherlock.” It’s not that I’m anti-Sherlock of any variety. However, what I know about Sherlock comes almost entirely from the Wishbone version of Hound of the Baskervilles. I did watch the first movie with Jude Law and RDJ, but I don’t even remember it. Until the book reminded me, I couldn’t remember who the heck Mycroft was in Sherlock Holmes. What if Sherlock love was essential for Every Breath love? My fears, guys.
You’ve probably guessed by now that Sherlock love was not necessary to love Every Breath, and I really really do. For a while I was afraid that I would just like it, but not reach the passionate, shouty levels of my dear friends. I’m not sure if took some time to take off for everyone or if that was just a me thing, but either way I ended up in the same location. That location being the docks. Where I boarded a ship. A Wattscroft ship made of science and practicality.
Every Breath has some of the very best friendship to love romance that I’ve ever experienced. When the novel opens, they’re very firmly friends with scarcely a tension-filled moment. There are some Freudian slips here and there, but mostly they’re cool and comfortable with each other. The thing is that I totally get why they didn’t realize they should be making out. For one thing, Rachel hasn’t been in the city for that long and, for another, she doesn’t want to stay. Mycroft knows that she’s hoping to head right back out to the country, that she doesn’t want to get attached, and they’re both basically resisting messy romantic feelings. People vainly trying to resist attraction is basically my call to ship.
Throughout Every Breath, Rachel has to weigh her feelings for Mycroft and her feelings about the city. I love how much Rachel loves farming and how much she will not let people disparage it. Along her emotional arc, Rachel says a lot of really mean things to people she loves, the barbs calculated to hurt the most. She also is incredibly loving and sweet and thoughtful, the sort of girl who makes sure Mycroft has enough to eat and will go hang out with Mycroft’s friend Homeless Dave.
Speaking of Homeless Dave, may he rest in peace. The mystery of the novel crops up early. Mycroft and Rachel, who totally have no romantic feelings for each other no sir, go to visit Dave and find his throat slashed. It’s a grisly, painful scene. Mycroft, though fascinated by forensics, throws up; it shows a lot about their dynamics that Rachel actually handles this better in some ways and not in others. The two begin investigating the case together and they’re really such a perfect team. When he’s flagging, she’s got a new idea and vice versa. Their talents and ways of thinking are quite different, so they complement one another well. Also, they trust one another, which is essential.
Mysteries are not usually my thing, but I actually really liked this one. There’s a bit of Scooby Doo-ness in the meddling kids solving the mystery, but it also really worked. Unlike some YA or MG mysteries, I think it makes a lot of sense for the teens to be the ones to solve the case. The circumstances are such that it truly is unlikely that the police force would look so closely. It’s a sad truth that the murder of a homeless man wouldn’t be looked into as closely.
Back to the romance, because that’s obviously the most important part. I already adored the other half of Mycroft and Watts group, Mai and Gus, but they’re even better for being the biggest shippers on the whole planet. Actually, almost everyone is trying to get those kids to realize the truth, except for Rachel’s parents and the school administration. Both of the latter have pretty good reasons for being concerned, and, in the case of Rachel’s parents, I think it resolves really smoothly.
The first kiss is shippy perfection and holy shit I could barely put the book down from that point on. Basically, it hit one of my very favorite tropes and just yes. Also, the passion and the swoons in this book. I cannot even.
My reservations are minor and petty. Mostly I just could not handle the character named Gray Jetta. His actual first name is Graham, but he goes by Gray. How does no one comment on the fact that this guy is a car? There’s also a teacher named Mrs. Ramen. Again, students would totally have some nickname for her or snicker about that or something. On top of that, there are way too many comma splices, which hurt my grammar loving soul, at least until I got sucked in enough to not notice anymore. Other than those things, my only issue was that it took a bit of time for the book to hook me, but once it did it did not let go.
I may have already preordered the second book even though it doesn’t come out until September. Why oh why will it finish in Australia before book two even comes out here? More importantly, why must the Australian covers be so incredibly ugly. Now I have to wait ages and I am sad. Or I’ll give in and buy the ugly covers, but I really really don’t want to. ARGH....more
Though I wasn’t a huge fan of Legion, I do not have it in me to pass up BrandFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Though I wasn’t a huge fan of Legion, I do not have it in me to pass up Brandon Sanderson writing. At the huge cost of free, Skin Deep was definitely worth a try. I’m glad to report that I liked the follow up better than the first story in the series, though I’m not sure if that’s because it’s better or because I was more prepared for what the Legion series is about. I think a lot of my struggle with Legion is that I wanted more of Sanderson’s amazingly creative fantasy worlds, not a slightly futuristic mystery. Skin Deep comes in at four and a half hours and it’s free on Audible, so it’s well worth a listen if you’re a Sanderson or mystery fan.
Stephen Leeds is still a really interesting character. The main appeal of the series for me isn’t the mysteries but his aspects. Stephen has generated different aspects, which he sees as individuals, who speak and have their own unique personalities. They are, however, part of him and not visible to others. He can touch them, however, and some of them are even dating one another. He needs a large house and to let them in through doors. It’s fascinating, really.
One of the weird things that I love is when it’s hard to tell if someone’s insane or…something else. For example, I love the television shows Wonderfalls and Eli Stone, where it’s unclear if the main characters are going crazy or if a god or something like one is speaking to them. In Skin Deep, Stephen notices that every single one of his aspects has a mental disorder of some sort or another. Sanderson’s diving even more into how odd the aspects are and I think even Stephen’s starting to wonder about his own nature. It’s pretty cool.
The mystery itself is pretty good, so far as mysteries go. The concept again is neat. A company, I3, has been working on using human bodies for storage of data. For example, making a thumb drive an actual thumb. One of the developers working on this apparently managed to create a virus that would create cancer and coded it into his own body. Then he dies and his body is stolen. What a mess. Stephen’s tasked with looking for it by his friend Yol Chay who owns I3. I didn’t really see the resolution coming and I think things played out well.
The main factor that really impacted my enjoyment was Yol Chay. The mystery of the day is set in motion when Yol Chay asks Stephen for help locating a stolen body. That’s all fine, except that Yol Chay is Korean. But, Christina, I thought you loved diversity in novels? Yeah, I do. Only Yol Chay? Not a Korean name. I even double-checked my skepticism on this with my Korean boyfriend and he laughed for like five minutes. He did think that the accent Oliver Wyman does for Yol was pretty good for a white guy impersonating a Korean, so there’s that at least. It just seems to me that if you’re going to give a Korean character a non-Korean name and a non-country-of-residence name, you have to explain why, because otherwise it looks like no research has been done.
Oliver Wyman’s a talented narrator. He does a great job with various accents and it’s no trouble keeping all the different characters apart. Audiobook is the right format on these stories for me. For one thing, free, and, for another, with them not being my genre of choice, they’re much more fun to listen to.
Sanderson fans, if you didn’t know this series was free on Audible, what are you doing? Ditto audiobook fans and mystery fans....more
Lately, I’ve been less and less interested in middle grade fiction. It’s beenFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Lately, I’ve been less and less interested in middle grade fiction. It’s been with sadness that I’ve watched a number of YA authors switch to writing middle grades. In fact, I initially thought Beastkeeper was going to be young adult, but alas no. Even so, it was by Cat Hellisen, so fuck yeah I was going to read it anyway. One does not simply skip a Hellisen novel.
Reading Beastkeeper was one hundred percent the correct decision. Cat Hellisen’s writing is absurdly gorgeous. I wish I could roll around in it, but I’d have to dismantle the book which I am unwilling to do. The volume may be slim and look every bit a book for children, but there’s no reason that adults should not appreciate this macabre fairy tale every bit as much as their kids do.
If you’ve not read Hellisen, you probably don’t know, but Hellisen does dark well. Just beautifully. Beastkeeper surprised me with how dark it got for a children’s story. When trying to decide if it’s for you, think of original fairy tales and not their fluffy Disney counterparts. Beastkeeper is in some part a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but it hearkens to a number of classic fairy tales.
I’d thought that Beastkeeper was a straight up retelling, but it’s part retelling and part continuation. Sarah is, in fact, the grandchild of the beauty and the beast, her family suffering under their curse yet. Hellisen has put her own spin on the original tale of the beauty and the beast, one that I love, and also played with what happens after true love. Beastkeeper is all about love and humanity. It’s not a love conquers all story.
The titular beastkeeper is Sarah’s sort of love interest. This is not, however, really a romance. I’m glad of that since I don’t ship it. I mean, maybe eventually, but in the confines of this novel, no. Alan’s an interesting figure, but I also don’t really know what to make of him. I’d have liked more about his background. He seems to exist mostly to move plot along, rather than as a strong character.
Additionally, I wanted more of Sarah’s parents. The resolution happens pretty abruptly and I would have liked to find out more about what was going to change after that point. It just ended and I was left wanting more.
Beastkeeper is enchanting and at under 200 pages, there’s really no reason for you not to read it, unless for some strange reason you hate fairy tales....more
Ouch. My body was not ready. When I pick up graphic nFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Actual rating: 4.5 stars
Ouch. My body was not ready. When I pick up graphic novels, I expect something kinda fluffy. I mean, I first got into them with manga and my favorites are shoujo romances. The Sculptor has a couple kissing on the cover and it’s tagged a romance on GR. However, it’s also really sad, so be prepared for that. The fact that I’ve just been destroyed aside, it’s really fucking good.
The Sculptor is about this guy David who’s a painter. Haha, just kidding. He’s a sculptor. Ever since he was a kid, sculpting has been his dream. Now 26, David’s dreams are all but crushed. His family, who he loved, have all died by this point and he’s down to just one friend. His art career had a brief surge of popularity followed by crushing ignominy when his patron dropped him hard. David doesn’t have any money left and the lease is almost up on his apartment. He feels hopeless.
This is why, when his dead Uncle Harry shows up in a diner to offer him a deal, David accepts. David trades all of the rest of his life for one year of sculpting, in which he’ll be able to truly live his dream. Though he didn’t realize it, the true dream was to be able to sculpt metal and stone with his bare hands. David basically becomes a superhero and it’s so cool, though he actually doesn’t use his powers that way at all.
Everything for David is about his art. Though I’m not an artist, I love stories about people with the compulsion. David sees promise in everything and remembers things in artful statues in his mind. One thing I thought was so cool was that all of the sculptures, even the ones that looked like nothing were a clear, particular event for David. He’s a bit like Hercules, in that he trades his future for fame. When he can’t get popular even with his new ability, he becomes a rogue sculpturer, leaving creations around the city.
He also, of course, falls in love while doomed to die in a year. His love interest, Meg, is awesome. She starts out sort of MPDG-ish, I think, but she’s actually manic depressive. I just love the way their romance evolves, from him declaring himself in love with her the third time they meet and how adorable their first time was. I became very very attached to these people. They’re funny and real and I was rooting for them.
The one thing I’m not as sure about is actually the premise. I love it, but I also feel like there was something more I wanted to know about Harry’s character. Why does death get involved like this? What’s the point? It stands alone without that, but I was left with questions and curiosity.
The Sculptor surprised me utterly, made me fall in love, and broke my heart. Just so good....more
As I’ve been looking back over this year’s reading, I’ve found how few adultFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
As I’ve been looking back over this year’s reading, I’ve found how few adult novels charmed me. Sometimes I find myself wondering if maybe young adult fiction is all that works for me anymore. Then I pick up a book like Everything I Never Told You. Celeste Ng’s debut is quiet, emotional, and heartbreaking, the story of a family’s unraveling.
Everything I Never Told You seems from the blurb to be a simple mystery, the unwinding of how Lydia, beloved daughter of the Lee’s, perished. From the very first sentence, it becomes obvious that there’s more going on in Everything I Never Told You. The first two lines are “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” This reveals that Everything I Never Told You has the no-longer-common omniscient narrator. The narrator drops hints of the future and knows what’s going on within the character’s hearts, even when they themselves do not understand.
The death of Lydia both is and is not at the center of the story. Her death is the focal point, the catalyst for the breaking, but the book is actually more about her family. It’s not even primarily about the way that they deal with the grief of losing Lydia, though that’s certainly a part of it too. Everything I Never Told You primarily deals with the way people’s expectations of one another can poison relationships.
Central to this are the parents, James and Marilyn Lee. The two fell in love when he was the graduate student teaching her course, which she summarily dropped so that they could date. They are, at heart, seeking completely opposite things. Marilyn dreams of being a doctor; she wants to be different and surpass those around her, but ends up a housewife like her mother before her. James, Chinese, has never felt like he fit in among the white faces. All he wants is to belong; Marilyn attracted him by how much she fit in. During their fights, these issues come up again and again, but the two don’t see it. They interpret what the other says through the lens of what upsets them. James thinks that Marilyn regrets making an interracial marriage and James thinks he wishes that he had a more obedient wife.
Everything I Never Told You alternates between the timeline following Lydia’s death and the past, beginning with James and Marilyn’s courtship and going through the day of her death. Such frequent and sustained flashbacks can really kill forward momentum in a novel, but that didn’t happen here at all. I found every character’s story fascinating and was eager to find out what had happened and would happen to each of them.
This book is sad. Monstrously sad. There’s some amount of hope for the future, but pretty much every single character’s story made my heart hurt. They do terrible things and even act out in horribly predictable ways, but they’re all good people at heart, and it just hurt. I’m hanging most of my hope on the gay ship, which I think is canon, but this book is more about the journey through the pain than the better times to come.
Everything I Never Told You is a gorgeous character study of the misunderstandings that crop up between people when they don’t honestly discuss what they want and how the feel....more