Author: Megan Abbott
Genre: Psychological Fiction
Release Date: July 7th, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source: Personal Copy
While suburbia in America is often portrayed as an idyllic place to set down roots and raise a family, Megan Abbott reveals that these communities can harbor just as many dark secrets as their urban counterparts in her newest novel The End of Everything. Lizzie Hood is a typical thirteen-year-old girl growing up in the Midwest during the 1980s. Practically inseparable from Lizzie, her best friend Evie Verver lives in the house next door - a house where Lizzie not only feels at home but at peace. The two girls seemingly share everything, from their clothes to their dreams and fears, and Lizzie couldn’t imagine her life without her closest friend alongside her.
Then one day everything changes. Evie never comes home, and the only clue to what may have happened is a car Lizzie remembers seeing as her mother picked her up from school earlier that afternoon. As a town torn apart by such a tragedy looks for answers, Lizzie is bombarded with questions from the police as well as Evie’s father. Once the investigation starts pointing to Mr. Shaw, an older man who lives in the neighborhood with his wife and son, a panic slowly grows among the community. In an attempt to gain some control, Lizzie begins her own investigation and starts to unravel the mysteries and secrets that had been hiding all around her.
These are all the good things, and there were such good things. But then there were the other things, and they seemed to come later, but what if they didn’t? What if everything was there all along, creeping soundlessly from corner to corner…and I didn’t hear it? Didn’t see it?Once I started reading The End of Everything I was blown away by how much the story affected me emotionally. I was quite unable to leave the book sitting before feeling the need to pick it back up and continue toward the end. Abbott’s writing was superb and created lots of tension and pressure from beginning to end. This is not to say that the story was unwound neatly. On the contrary, once I thought I knew where the story was headed, WHAM, a whole new angle was dropped into my lap. All the twists and knots in this story just beg to be disembroiled and untangled through discussion with others. Abbot focuses not on the crime itself but more on the event’s impact of a young girl’s disappearance on the people of a small community. Abbott definitely introduces themes and ideas that could be interpreted as a commentary on suburban life in America.
There are times now when I look at those weeks before it happened and they have the quality of revelation. It was all there, all the clues, all the bright corners illuminated. But of course it wasn’t that way at all. And I could not have seen it. I could not, could not.Along with being an excellent source of twisted psychological fiction, I would argue that The End of Everything is also a coming of age tale. Lizzie, on the cusp of adolescence, goes through a multitude of changes during the entire ordeal in terms of her relationships and sexuality. Trust, or lack thereof, is constantly confronted over the course of the novel. The distrust between friends, family, and neighbors builds constantly and creates an air of doubt and suspicion over the entire narrative. Abbott plays around with the theme of memory quite a bit - especially the way memory, when coiled with desire and desperation, can distort one’s perception.
Somewhere, though, somewhere in my head, in the back pitch of it, there’s something. There’s something. I just can’t reach it.Told from Lizzie’s point of view in the present tense, her depiction of events becomes so mingled with her dreams and memories that the reader even begins to question the reliability of the narrator. Such an unreliable narrator adds another layer to Abbott’s novel, and I must say I loved Lizzie’s voice. The way she was written kept me uncomfortable yet enthralled the entire time. Her emotions, while strong, were often romanticized and naïve, but in my opinion this makes for an excellent portrayal of a thirteen-year-old girl just discovering sex and its power often times in a very uncomfortable, for the reader, manner.
Mr. Verver, he was there. I couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t craning my neck to look up at him, forever waiting to hear more, hungry for the moments he would shine his attentions on me.The End of Everything is such a multilayered yet quite disturbing thrill ride, but I will say it is not a novel for everyone. I caution potential readers that disconcerting subject matter, such as the relationships between older men and teen girls, is discussed which makes it a little hard to read. However, I think those who pick up this book and give it a go will be surprised at how mesmerizing Abbott’s work really is under the surface. I’m looking forward to reading another book by this author soon.