First-Year Text: Everything I Never Told You

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Study Guide

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . .” The novel begins by telling us that Lydia is dead. What is the effect of this stylistic choice? How did revealing this information right away influence the way you read the novel?

2. Discuss the relationships between Nath, Lydia, and Hannah. How do the siblings both understand and mystify one another?

3. Why do you think Lydia is the favorite child of James and Marilyn? How does this pressure affect Lydia, and what kind of impact do you think it has on her siblings? Do you think it is more difficult for Lydia to be the favorite, or for Nath and Hannah, who are often overlooked by their parents?

4. “So part of him wanted to tell Nath that he knew: what it was like to be teased, what it was like to never fit in. The other part of him wanted to shake his son, to slap him. To shape him into something different. . . . When Marilyn asked what happened, James said merely, with a wave of the hand, ‘Some kids teased him at the pool yesterday. He needs to learn to take a joke.’” How did you react to the “Marco Polo” pool scene with James and Nath? What do you think of James’s decision?

5. Have you ever felt like an outsider? When? How do the members of the Lee family deal with being measured against stereotypes and others’ perceptions?

6. Marilyn wants to stand out and James wants to blend in. Which one is more damaging to their children? Which of these traits do the children inherit more?

7. What is the meaning of the novel’s title? To whom do the “I” and “you” refer?

8. What would have happened if Lydia had reached the dock? Do you think she would have been able to change her parents’ views and expectations of her?

9. This novel speaks to the influence our parents can have on us. Do you think the same issues will affect the next generation of Lees? How did your parents influence your childhood?

10. There’s so much that the characters keep to themselves. What do you wish they had shared with one another? Do you think an ability to better express themselves would have changed the outcome of the book?