Summary: Little Fires Everywhere takes place in 1990s Shaker Heights, Ohio, a progressive suburb outside of Cleveland where everything is planned- what colors houses can be painted, how the roads must wind, where trees can be grown, etc. No one exemplifies Shaker Heights more than Elena Richardson, who attempts to raise her children with the belief that playing by the rules will get give them all the success and more. Mia Warren and her daughter, Pearl, rent a house from Elena, the Richardson children are captivated by the traveling duo, and Pearl and Mia quickly become more than just tenants. When the McCulloughs, friends of the Richardsons, want to adopt a Chinese-American baby, the custody battle divides Shaker Heights, putting Mia and Elena on opposite sides. Mia’s distaste for the status quo riffles Elena’s feathers, who begins to question Mia’s mysterious past.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
I traded books with Kelsey of MyFictionalBF over on Twitter, and in exchange for Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, Kelsey sent me an ARC of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. I had been anticipating Little Fires Everywhere since I read Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, at the end of 2016. I didn’t even realize they were giving away ARCS at Book Con, so many thanks to Kelsey!
One of my favorite parts of Little Fires Everywhere was Celeste Ng’s writing style, specifically how her story unravels. Similar to Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere begins with the “ending” of the story. We’re introduced to the Richardsons, watching their house burn down. In the next chapter, we go nine months back, the Richardson house perfectly standing, as Mia and Pearl Warren enter Shaker Heights. Elena, more often referred as Mrs. Richardson, sees her new tenants as a charity case, giving the Warrens a good home in a good neighborhood with a good school system. She’s a bit more intrigued in Mia’s photography, thinking she can extend her good charity even further, perhaps asking Mia to take family portraits. Mia isn’t a typical photographer, taking up and traveling to where whatever projects her mind suits, but she’s promised Pearl that they’ll stay in Shaker Heights until she graduates from high school.
And of course, we have the Richardson children: Lexie, Trip, Moody and Izzy. Each Richardson had their own personality, but I enjoyed Lexi and Izzy’s storylines the most. Moody instantly hits it off with Pearl, becoming best friends, however they grow apart, as Pearl grows closer to Lexie and Trip. I think for this reason we get a bit less time with Moody, but I enjoyed his role in the book. We don’t get much for Trip himself as well, with most of Trip’s parts focusing on his growing relationship with Pearl. Lexi definitely had one of the more complex storylines in the novel, especially since she enlists her help from Pearl and Mia. Izzy was hands-down my favorite Richardson. I love how Mia inspired her to fight the status quo, and how she grew from a spark, as she’s referenced as, to a flame. It made me so angry how Elena treated her as the odd one out and was always faulting Izzy for her actions (RIP Izzy’s Doc Martens). My favorite Izzy moment was when Elena reflects on having “the talk” with Lexie and Izzy,
“She and Mr. Richardson did not speak to the children about their love lives- she’d have a talk with Lexie and Izzy, when their periods had started, about their responsibilities. (“Vulnerabilities”, Izzy had corrected her, and left the room.)”
I appreciated Izzy’s defiance and sass when it came to dealing with her mother. Between the custody battle over Mirabelle/ May Ling and Lexie, Pearl, and Trip exploring sexuality in their relationships, there’s a lot of discussion regarding babies, responsibility, and sex. Elena really reminded me of Mrs. Cooper from Riverdale (I’m ready for season 2, okay?). She was so old school–why didn’t Trip and Moody get “the talk”? — and being a third generation Shaker Heights girl, played by the rules. I loved how Mia was the opposite of Elena. I really enjoyed exploring her past, even though I hate how it was all because of Elena’ snooping, and I so wanted Mia to take Izzy and just run far away from Elena’s control and expectations.
Overall, I really enjoyed how the first one hundred pages or so and the novel as a whole allows its readers to really get to know the characters. A lot of the blurbs on Little Fires Everywhere focus on the custody battle between the McCulloughs and Bebe, which is an essential part of the novel, but we don’t get a glimpse of our full cast of characters. While taking notes on Little Fires Everywhere while reading, I wrote within the first fifty page mark that I was falling into the novel, and guess what? I completely fell into this book and the story and the characters; it’s a book that I can’t help but still think about. Little Fires Everywhere is hands-down one of my favorite books of 2017, and I can’t wait to see what Celeste Ng brings out next!
Do you plan on picking up Little Fires Everywhere? Let me know in the comments!