a return to adolescent fiction

On the week-end, I finished reading Celeste Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You. Since I said, in a post the week before last, that I’d try to not write book-related posts the following week (i.e. the week just gone), I put off writing this post until today. Yeah, I could have written it yesterday and just scheduled it to be published today, but was too busy/lazy to write the post yesterday.

Well, I suppose that’s only half-true. I also don’t really know what I want to write about it. Let’s start with some basics: EINTY is the story of a half-Asian, half-American girl in 1970s Ohio. The basic premise is that she’s suddenly found dead one day (and there’s a lot of suggestion of suicide) and her family try to figure out what really happened. It’s actually quite an interesting book in terms of the subject matter and issues that it’s addressing (racism, the struggles/angst of adolescence, societal pressure, family, ambition, etc), and I’d say, overall, it was well constructed.

I suppose it’s kind of similar to All the Birds, Singing (by Evie Wyld) in the sense that you have a back-story and present-story interwoven throughout the novel. (Unlike ATBS, however, EINTY progresses forward in each parallel story to gradually reveal more and more, leading you to the final resolution.) The transition between past and present is generally well done such that the story and the writing still flows smoothly.

This book took me about a week to finish reading, which is pretty good for me – I can’t remember the last time I finished a novel in such a short space of time. To be fair, I did spend a lot of time reading this last week, and it isn’t that massive as far as novels go. This might seem like a weird point to mention, but so much about the book – the smell, the physical size and dimensions, the font size, the laminated cover, the speed at which I read it – so much reminded me of books I used to read in primary school and high school. There’s a sort of nostalgic quality to it, even if the story is completely new.

Previously, I had contemplated purchasing a copy of EINTY, but when I found a copy at the library, I decided I didn’t have to. And, after reading a few chapters, I realised that was the right decision, since I probably won’t re-read it. (NB: This does not mean that it wasn’t good; it just means that I wasn’t overawed by it.) Sure, I’d probably recommend it to others, but I don’t feel compelled to recommend it to anyone in particular. If you like YAF, and you like books that are full of emotional turmoil, then, yeah, this is probably a good book for you to read. If you’re after something that’s a bit different, that offers a deeper perspective, then, sure, give EINTY a go. It’s kind of eye-opening to see how each of the family members misunderstand each other, or misinterpret each others’ words/actions. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of books Ng writes next.

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