Colette Fehr's Reviews > Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
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Hmmmm.... Quintessential MFA graduate writing, which is to say lyrical creative prose that captures emotion in the details, following the MFA formula of "show; don't tell," to provide character exposition. The author shows us the interiority of her characters brilliantly- and then goes on to slam us over the head with explicit "telling" as if we're complete morons who can't figure it out for ourselves. Furthermore the themes that guide the relationships in this family are so over the top and one note ( I.e mother's vicarious ambition for daughter is an attempt to resurrect and fulfill her own thwarted aspirations) that the every exchange revolves around whatever singular force guides the particular relationship in a way that is exhaustingly heavy- handed. This interfered with enjoying the book and getting invested in the characters for me. Despite the beautiful writing I didn't believe for a minute that one of these characters was real and I didn't buy any if the relationships. They all felt like symbols or allegories almost the way characters in fairy take would. I craved a little more complexity and depth from the relationships in the family and although I couldn't put the book down, found myself feeling a little "meh" when I was finished.
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Reading Progress

July 1, 2014 – Started Reading
July 1, 2014 – Shelved
July 8, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 64 (64 new)


Andrew Campbell Agreed- but yours is NOT a 3-star review, ha.


Linda I agree with you and Andrew.


message 3: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda Smith Another who agrees with your points but thinks a 1 or 2 would better reflect them.


Elaine No, it's a 3-star review: couldn't put the book down but object to improbable elements and simplistic relationships. Colette, I'd write my own review, but it's easier to just say I concur with yours :D


Moumita Sarcar no mam.. these situations, these themes, do occur in real life... people experience them,.. be it the son who is neglected.. the daughter who doesnt exist.. or the overhyped one... the true projections of the society mouuld you, and more so, during the 70s... it is as true as it could get... maybe you have never expereienced something as such, so u couldnt relate. bt its real...


Errol Mortland Nice. Well said.


Candy I was brought up in this time period, as one of 5 children. Also in a small town, with more diversity than most small towns. I totally agree with this review, however, an edit would have helped it!


Pamela It's a book about narcissists but the author doesn't realize it is. Sure the writing was nice though.


Elisa Great review!


Colette Fehr Thanks Elisa!


Colette Fehr Thanks Elisa!


message 12: by Kerry (new) - rated it 1 star

Kerry McFadden I agree and give it a two.


Colette Fehr I probably should have done a 2 as well


Colette Fehr I probably should have done a 2 as well


Elizabeth Having dated an Asian man for many years and being immersed in the cultural expectations within many Asian families, I can tell you that these relationships are indeed very real and quite on point. This is why I found this book so beautifully tragic, because it is in fact, so incredibly true to life!


Pamela Ha! I just said the same thing in my brief review: "show, don't tell." Then I looked up others' to see if I was the only one who had that reaction. If the author would remove all the sentences that point out the obvious, and gave her readers more credit, this would be a five-star book. Maybe she can do that for a revised edition.


Colette Fehr Yes exactly! It made for such a tedious read!


Colette Fehr Yes exactly! It made for such a tedious read!


Colette Fehr Yes exactly! It made for such a tedious read!


message 20: by Ericka (new) - added it

Ericka Seidemann You succinctly captured exactly how I felt about this book as well. It was good, interesting, but the heavy-handedness got me down.


Feblub You are too nice. I gave this book 1 star.


Feblub You are too nice. I gave this book 1 star.


Ramona Schickling I felt this way exactly. Characters to over the top and single-minded. It angered me and intrigued me at the same time and yet at the very end, I found myself liking this book.


message 24: by Gina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gina Frankhart Working in psychiatry for 30 yrs and living in The Ann Arbor area with a lot go diversity, I fully agree that this is a problem is real among Asians. I grew up in the 70's so can relate to the limitations on young women. As a parent, it's natural to want your children to have a more successful career than you may have had


message 25: by Gina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gina Frankhart Working in psychiatry for 30 yrs and living in The Ann Arbor area with a lot go diversity, I fully agree that this is a problem is real among Asians. I grew up in the 70's so can relate to the limitations on young women. As a parent, it's natural to want your children to have a more successful career than you may have had


message 26: by Gina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gina Frankhart But the book left me unsatisfied. The characters needed to be more fully developed. The author repeatedly drove home the pressure on this young girl. The end was too neatly wrapped up. The ones left behind never get over this kind of loss.


message 27: by Gina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gina Frankhart But the book left me unsatisfied. The characters needed to be more fully developed. The author repeatedly drove home the pressure on this young girl. The end was too neatly wrapped up. The ones left behind never get over this kind of loss.


message 28: by Cris (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cris My feelings exactly.


Thviolette Excellent review.


message 30: by Alex (new) - rated it 1 star

Alex Cassels Relieved to know I am not alone in thinking it totally lacked depth. The plot was watery, diluted by words that over explained each and every scenario.


Heather Thank you! Put into words how I felt about it!


Jessica I agree. In some ways, it was so beautiful, and at the end, I felt it all tied together in a convincing and moving way. But in between, the characters felt one-dimensional. The pushiness and singular focus of the parents, in particular, was just unconvincing. I didn't buy that who they were as young people could result in who they became later, or even that such people as they later were could even exist in such singular focus. It bordered on silly. But I have to say that at some point in the book, I forgave a lot, and was won over by the overall themes. I think she is a beautiful writer and look forward to her next novel.


Joyce Completely agree! Too much telling and one dimensional characters that I couldn't empathize with. I thought I was the only one who felt that the mere 300 pgs took forever. It's unfortunate as it could have been a very good subject matter and portrait of grief had it been written more masterfully and elegantly. Too bad.


Laurie Lemson Thanks, all of you! I wasn't able to put into words what I felt about this book. You have.
The most depressing and redemptive book I've ever read.


message 35: by Leslie (new)

Leslie I'm only about 50 pages in and I agree 100%. So disappointing. The poor writing is really distracting and I could care less about the characters. Plus their actions make no sense! Why would the brother and sister of a dead sibling NOT immediately tell their parents everything they knew to try to find out what happened?? This is not how people normally behave. I don't know whether to continue reading.


Christine Law I completely agree with your review. Spot on


message 37: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Toor Agree completely! I was actually frustrated reading it


Alexandra Longhouse I felt the exact same way. I found the book an enjoyable read, especially initially, but I was really hoping that there would be more depth and complexity to the characters, and this never happened. I had hoped it would get better, but it only got worse.


message 39: by Laura (new) - rated it 1 star

Laura Starks What a great review, and I completely agree. I thought is was beautifully written but was left feeling just kind of unfulfilled or meh as you say it, especially with the ending.


message 40: by Jen (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jen Parrott THANK YOU!!!
You so perfectly said what I was thinking. I was starting to feel horrible for not loving this book until I read your review.


message 41: by Andi (new) - rated it 2 stars

Andi Thank you, I've been saving this book thinking I'd love it, I'm halfway through and want it to end!


Rachel I felt the exact same way when I read this. Thanks for so eloquently voicing what I was thinking :)


Cathy Well put! I just finished this and couldn't quite pinpoint why the characters interactions drove me a little crazy! you perfectly explain my feelings on this book.


Nicole I personally bought into the characters because I identified from a cultural standpoint. Ng was able to express this frustration in a way I never could. For example, there isn't a lot of open dialogue in an immigrant Asian family. It's mostly DO and fulfill expectations. But I digress, this was a mixed family but a lot of similar elements were there. The only character I didn't really buy into was the father and his obsession with making his daughter popular.


message 45: by Kelli (new)

Kelli Colette Fehr-just read the book and agree with everything you wrote. I am easily moved by real emotion, and despite finding the book to be a page-turner, the characters felt flat and unbelievable to me. The emergence of Jack's love for Nath seems like a politically correct overlay that was necessary to move the plot, not a true rendition of character. Hannah was the only character who felt at all real. In the end, as with so much mediocre modern fiction, I felt manipulated by, rather than emersed in, the story.


message 46: by Kelli (new)

Kelli Gina-the only problem is that real literature isn't supposed to fulfill the purpose of a magazine article on problems that humans need to solve. This book was didactic, formulaic, and despite the important issues it raises, disappointing.


message 47: by Eric (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric Buechel This is a fantastic review.


Scott You've really crystallized my experience of reading it, too. I often found myself wondering who the hell were her editors, for there's undeniably some great stuff in here but mixed right in there were some stunningly sophomoric observations. I myself did not find it a "page-turner" and in fact sometimes was reluctant to pick it back up the next day. However, I disagree with those dismissing it entirely. There were several really moving, eloquent moments, in my opinion. Unfortunately, more often than not these small epiphanies would be immediately followed by some asinine observation of what was already quite clear, totally undercutting the magic the author had just wrought. I agree that a revised version would be quite worthwhile. She needs an editor who'll go in there and excise every instance of her TELLING us how a character feels when she's already captured it profoundly. It pulls the reader immediately out of the moment and undermines whatever empathy was just blossomed in the same breath. I literally just finished this book half an hour ago and came here to read responses to help me sort out my very mixed feelings about the work. Instead, I'm now much more interested in looking up what Collette's other reviews are saying.


message 49: by Linda (new)

Linda If I didn’t finish every book I start, this is one I would have never finished. The parents were so focused on their own disappointments and pain, they nearly destroyed their children. Their inability to communicate was grim.


message 50: by Annscm (new)

Annscm Perrigo Yes, exactly! Although I was way more than “a little ‘meh’ when I was finished it. I wanted to throw it across the room, so angry was imat spending so much time on it. Maybe i’m Beyond literary fiction at this point, and just want a good story. This wasn’t it. And in addi5ion several reviewers have mentioned what a fast read it was. Not for me—I slogged my way through it. Thank you for your concise and accurate review, Colette.


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