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The End of Everything by Megan Abbott
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Jul 03, 2011

it was amazing

ReaganArthur, 07/2011

Book Review by Linda S. Brown

Abbott starts her latest novel, THE END OF EVERYTHING, with the freshness of shiny swimsuits on little bodies turning cartwheels in the summer grass, two best friends for ever and ever.

She finishes with the darkness of the aftermath of a young girl’s abduction and events that bring a series of surprising revelations.

The opening scene is luminous and evocative of so many summer evenings: shrill kids’ voices as they play hide-n-seek (or, as they call it, “Bloody Murder”), the “sound of Keds slamming on the asphalt,” fireflies glimmering in the late summer grass… Adolescent girls – Lizzie and Evie, best friends from the beginning – with older siblings to study and imitate, parents to adore or ignore, soccer and scrapes, sleepovers and secrets…

Early on, Abbott’s 13-year-old protagonist, Lizzie, lets us know that not all secrets are shared. It’s not that she knows Evie isn’t telling her something. It’s a sense of something Evie isn’t telling her: “When I remember Evie now she is always slipping through shadows. Big, dark, haunted eyes rimmed with red. Running across the soccer field, face flushed, straight black sheet of hair rippling across her back. Running so hard, her breath stippled with pain to go faster, hit the grass harder, move forward faster, like she could break through something in front of her, something no one else saw.”

Abbott creates picture-perfect descriptions, staccato and abbreviated, just enough to glimpse the scene, but not so much as to distract the reader from the breathless confusion, the firefly flicker, the mixed emotions of young teen Lizzie as she and Evie move through a life-changing year. It’s a year in which Evie disappears one afternoon on the way home from school. It’s a year in which everyone looks to Lizzie, the best friend, for answers –because surely her best friend would know where Evie has gone.

It’s also a time in which Lizzie learns just how brutal girls can be. At school, her classmates talk openly – ghoulishly, even giddily -- about manhunts, dragging the lake, suicide; conversations led by one girl in particular, a girl whose father works at the local prosecutor’s office (so everyone believes she has the inside scoop). “It’s a big manhunt now,” she says.” My dad always said it was a sex crime…They’re looking for the body,” she says. “They’re wondering where he might have buried the body.”

But Lizzie knows Evie’s not dead. She knows she’d know if Evie were dead. Lizzie believes Evie may have run off, for adventure or perhaps with her secret love, a special love, an adult kind of love that Lizzie can only imagine. Not a kidnapping, not a murder, but a mystery of a different sort, of a mysterious kind of relationship Lizzie doesn’t yet grasp.

Desperate to console Evie’s father, the once-laughing, once-golden Mr. Verver, Lizzie turns teen cat burglar, looking for clues to the whereabouts of her best friend. And her dark mission would be exciting if it were not so frightening because, at times, even Lizzie has to wonder if Evie is still alive.

THE END OF EVERYTHING is a story in which Lizzie learns more about love, familial and otherwise, about the tricks memories can play on us, and how sometimes we see what we want to see, and not what is really there. It’s a story with a haunting theme song played over and over by Mr. Verver in his now lonely basement rec room. It’s a story where one golden daughter is set aside in the frantic search for another. It’s a story about change, of growing up and growing away.

Written as only Megan Abbott can write it, with diverse and complex characters, with breathless pacing and a disturbing atmosphere, this is a story about The End of Everything.
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