Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Publisher: Penguin Press
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 338 Pages
Published September 2017

Summary: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When the Richardsons' friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia's.

I've heard nothing but good things about this book ever since it was named one of the top fiction books last year, but a little part of me was still hesitant because most adult books I've read in the past didn't hold my interest much. But when I found out that this book was going to be my school's book club pick, I decided to give it a try, and I'm so that I did -- because I already know I'll be pushing this book on everyone I know. There was so much more to this story than I even expected, and I can totally see why it's about to be turned into a Hulu series. 

As the summary explains, Mia and her daughter Pearl show up in the picture-perfect town Shaker Heights, where everything is planned, the community is viewed as safe, nothing goes wrong, and everyone only makes the "right" decisions. But Mia and Pearl are far from the stereotypical mold of Shaker Heights -- they're nomads that travel from place to place, living out of their van, always creating art, always on the move. There's no dad in the picture (although that gets discussed later). There's no stability. To everyone in Shaker Heights, they seem like a blemish that doesn't fit. Slowly but surely, they find ways to blend in...but then some of Mia's darkest secrets come to light, and Pearl finds herself caught in the crossfire. And what happens between those moments is rich and complex.

When I found out that author Celeste Ng actually lived in Shaker Heights growing up, that added an even creepier and more chilling element to the story. The way the town is described -- as something so planned and perfect -- seems like something out of a futuristic-esque novel that was so chilling that it couldn't be real. So finding out that it WAS a real place, even if the story itself was It just added a whole new dimension to the book that hung around in the back of my mind throughout my whole reading process and made me keep looking over my shoulder. It certainly adds a thrill aspect to the story. 

I just really enjoyed reading this book. I liked the multiple layers of the story that happened throughout the novel -- there's a whole bunch to be unpacked here and these stories all find ways to intertwine and when you see it altogether in the That's all I can say about that. It's clear that this book was planned out rigorously and thought out very well. There's the story of Mia and Pearl's arrival, Lexie's story, Mia's secret past, the Mirabelle situation, and even Mrs. Richardson's story and her place in Shaker Heights. There's a lot going on here worth paying attention to -- a lot more than I ever expected to be interested in! And I seriously zipped through this book so quickly -- I was worried that it would take me awhile to finish, but I read almost the entire thing in one day/one sitting because I kept wanting to flip to the next page and see what would happen next. The story may have started out a little slow with all of the backstory and getting the reader comfortable with the way Shaker Heights worked, but once you're settled in...the drama begins. And wow, do you find yourself latching onto the story quickly.

(Spoilers in this paragraph, please skip to the next one if you don't want the book spoiled for you!) One thing that I wasn't super crazy about with this book was the end. It brings you right back to where the story began, but then it just leaves you hanging! I was just left with so many questions. What happened to Izzy? Where did she go? Did Mrs. Richardson ever find out the truth about Lexie and Pearl? Trip and Moody? Where did Mia and Pearl go?! Who did they see?! Will Izzy ever get caught, and what happens if she does?? I just wanted to know the answers to all of those pressing questions, and I felt like I was left on a little bit too much of a cliffhanger. The story really only explained how we got to the beginning point in the first scene of the story, but it doesn't fill in much of what happens after it.

The only other thing that I wasn't really enthusiastic about was the way point of view was handled in this book. The story was told in 3rd person, which always tended to throw me off a little bit, but what threw me off more was the fact that the perspective would switch multiple times throughout the same chapter, sometimes even on the same page. There were a few instances where I had to back up and reread because I wasn't sure whose perspective I was seeing the story from. But as the book went on, I began to figure out the pattern and how Celeste Ng's writing style worked, and it became a little less confusing.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Little Fires Everywhere. It was a book filled with love and loss, mysteries and secrets, and even some love. It was interesting to look into the Shaker Heights dynamic as well. I started this book unsure of what I was going to feel about it, but I walked away feeling satisfied and having enjoyed a really good story. If you're looking for a new book to pick up, I encourage you all to check it out and give it a shot -- I certainly enjoyed it!

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