The End of Everything is hard to abandon

I’m a sucker for an unreliable narrator. And what could be more questionable than a 13-year-old girl’s account of the mysterious disappearance of her best friend?

Lizzie Hood, your average suburban middle-class tween is suddenly not so average when her best friend Evie goes missing one day after school. Overnight she becomes the closest link police have to the missing girl and the crutch Evie’s father leans on in her disappearance. She must know something, maybe she just doesn’t recall it, but she must know something. In her efforts to uncover the truth about Evie’s disappearance, Lizzie treads closer and closer to an adult world she can’t quite comprehend, the violence of desire and the lengths she’s willing to go to bring her friend back.

Megan Abbott writes crime thrillers so you might be surprised to find out that the actual crime here is secondary to the story. What Abbott really focuses on is the insidious relationship that brews between young girls and the older male figures in their lives. This is a line Abbott toes throughout the book and then casually stomps right over.

The most curious part is the agency the girls have. It’s Lizzie who puts herself in compromising positions with Evie’s father, Lizzie whose desire for a father figure—or maybe to be part of Evie’s family—moves her to command his attention in any way that she can. The father is supposedly so grief-stricken that he either can’t see what’s happening or perverted enough to see how far she’ll take it. Both Evie and her sister, Dusty, are equally fulfilling their own destinies. There are no adults in The End of Everything; there are teenagers stumbling into maturity and parents who refuse to take responsibility for themselves or the impact they are having on their kids. And the kids? The kids aren’t taken…they go willingly.

It has tinges of Lolita but told through the eyes of the Lolita that Humbert imagines. As though, any young girl would want that. But, then, maybe I just didn’t grow up in the same suburbia that they did. If you’re looking for a hard-to-put-down read you’ve definitely found it, but the story—and the dark slimy layers underneath it—aren’t as easy to abandon as the book is when you’re through.

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3 thoughts on “The End of Everything is hard to abandon”

  1. You know, I’m not sure if these girls really exist either. (I mean in any sort of mass. Of course there could be a handful of any type of person.) And yet, for whatever reason, something of them MUST exist within us, because they are created and explored fairly often. I remember seeing it in Crush (starring Alicia Silverstone), for example, and I have even explored it in my own writing.

    Anyway. Great review. And this may be a great example of a book about teenagers that isn’t targeted at them as a reading audience. (A common question. You know, like, “What makes a book YA?”)

  2. I totally agree that there is something of this in most of us but it was the agency that I was surprised at, there are crushes and then there is the almost strategic manipulation that these girls have—and the implication that the men, the poor men, are falling into their wily trap of seduction. It’s told through a 13-year-old’s eyes so, again, for me this is a completely unreliable narrator, but it is concerning—a subject that always makes me nauseous—when we explore the opposite side of the coin, when we don’t make it clear who really has the agency in these situations when we don’t hold men accountable. Especially with the media these days filled with “legitimate rape” bullshit and something tells me that in this book, with Evie, this is exactly what Akin would consider illegitimate.

    But you’re right, perversions of every kind are and should be explored in novels, it’s how they make you react that is so important.

    P.S. I also used to watch Crush all the time when I was young. Loved that creepy creepy movie.

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