I loved this book which centred on the family of a girl that recently died. It was so much more than I ever thought it would be.
The story centers on Lydia, a sixteen year old girl who is found dead in a lake near her home. After this discovery we learn about each member of her family and how their lives affected Lydia’s and ultimately had a bearing on her death. Lydia and her family were Chinese-American and this was a huge focus of the story.
At first I wasn’t keen on reading this, the narrative style put me off. It’s written by way of an omnipresent narrator i.e. a Godlike presence that knows everything. Now that I’m writing this review I’ve realised why an omnipresent narrator might have been seen as appropriate by the author; the juxtaposition highlight’s how little Lydia’s family knew about her. Regardless, though, the style is old and doesn’t tend to be used anymore. The narrator says things like, ‘if only they knew what was going to happen.’ This type of thing takes me away from the reading experience and is a sign of authorship making the experience less immersive. A goal in fiction writing now is to make the experience as immersive as possible and this does the opposite.
There was also the issue of ‘head-hopping,’ from one character to another which isn’t very authentic. It’s also pretty jarring for the reader. Sometimes I had to stop while reading and go back a few lines to find out which characters head I was in.
Now that I’ve explained what I didn’t like I’ll tell you what I did. Chapters changed from one point of view to another, dependent on what was happening in the present time. I learnt so much about each character when I read about their past and also how they reacted to present-time situations. Every section of each person’s experience affected Lydia’s life and was a factor in her death. The dysfunction that exists within so many families was wonderfully depicted through the themes of race, friendship, perfectionism, relationships etc. Lydia struggled to fit in, had parents who emphasised the wrong things and unhealthy relationships, which all played their part in her death.
This was an excellent novel that is a fantastic example of the dysfunction that exists today.