Everything I Never Told You

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Lydia’s “Baby Soft” Perfume Symbol Analysis

Lydia’s “Baby Soft” Perfume Symbol Icon

When Lydia dies she is 16, right in the middle of the charged transitional phase between childhood and adulthood. To some extent, Lydia is still a young girl with an irrationally childlike way of thinking and little experience of adult matters. At the same time, she is also being introduced to activities associated with the loss of innocence during adolescence, such as smoking and having sex. This contrast of innocence and maturity is symbolized in Lydia’s perfume, which is called “Baby Soft.” As perfume, it is designed to make Lydia more attractive, and thus it is inherently linked to sexuality. On the other hand, the perfume’s name suggests purity and infancy. The combination of these two conflicting ideas illustrates the way in which teenage girls are placed under pressure to be simultaneously “innocent” and sexy, and that for many 16-year-olds, the binary between innocence and maturity becomes confusingly blurred.

Lydia’s “Baby Soft” Perfume Quotes in Everything I Never Told You

The Everything I Never Told You quotes below all refer to the symbol of Lydia’s “Baby Soft” Perfume. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Everything I Never Told You published in 2015.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Upstairs, Marilyn opens her daughter's door and sees the bed unslept in: neat hospital corners still pleated beneath the comforter, pillow still fluffed and convex. Nothing seems out of place. Mustard-colored corduroys tangled on the floor, a single rainbow-striped sock. A row of science fair ribbons on

the wall, a postcard of Einstein. Lydia's duffel bag crumpled on the floor of the closet. Lydia's green book bag slouched against her desk. Lydia's bottle of Baby Soft atop the dresser, a sweet, powdery, loved-baby scent still in the air. But no Lydia.

Related Characters: Lydia Lee, Marilyn Lee
Related Symbols: Lydia’s “Baby Soft” Perfume
Page Number: 1-2
Explanation and Analysis:

It is a normal morning at the Lee house, but Lydia has failed to come down to breakfast. The reader knows that she is dead, but her family does not. Lydia’s mother, Marilyn, has gone up to look for Lydia in her room, and in this passage she sees everything in its place but no sign of Lydia herself. The description of Lydia’s bedroom gives an impression of Lydia’s life and personality, even before she has personally appeared on the page. The “rainbow-striped sock” and book bag convey that she is still young, an impression emphasized by the “loved-baby scent” of her perfume. Meanwhile, the “neat hospital corners” of Lydia’s bed and “row of science ribbons” on the wall evoke someone who is disciplined and accomplished.

However, Lydia’s bedroom and belongings only give a partial portrait of who she really is. There is clearly information missing, made obvious by the fact that Lydia herself is not there. Indeed, her mysterious absence seems to contradict the image of her as both youthfully innocent and a disciplined, dutiful student. This contrast introduces the discrepancies between appearances and reality that occur throughout the book, as well as the tension between appearances and disappearances. If Lydia’s life is as ordinary and orderly as it seems, why has she mysteriously vanished?


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Lydia’s “Baby Soft” Perfume Symbol Timeline in Everything I Never Told You

The timeline below shows where the symbol Lydia’s “Baby Soft” Perfume appears in Everything I Never Told You. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...with their parents without their parents realizing. Nath watches one of the officers touch Lydia’s “Baby Soft” perfume “as if cupping a child’s head.” The officers advise them that most teenage girls come... (full context)
Chapter 3
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...but can’t. Eventually, she walks into Lydia’s room, which still smells of her—not of the Baby Soft perfume or the cigarettes Lydia used to claim Karen smoked, but of Lydia herself. (full context)
Chapter 7
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...including Lydia. At 15, Lydia wears lipstick to school to seem grown up, but her Baby Soft perfume means she still smells like a little girl. Over the years, Nath has felt inextricably... (full context)