The End Of Everything, on first glance, is the story of what comes next for a family when their thirteen-year-old daughter goes missing. But before you roll your eyes and think to yourself, “oh gosh, another book about a missing teenage girl”, let it be known that this is not really that sort of book at all.
Thirteen-year-olds Lizzie and Evie have been best friends for as long as they can remember, having grown up living right across the street from each other. They do everything together, share all their secrets, desires, jokes and dreams with each other; they’re like sisters but feel as though they’re even closer than that. At the edge of the end of the school year, approaching the summer before high school begins, Evie goes missing one afternoon after school. Without a single clue as to where she might be and who she might be with, Evie’s family quickly alerts the police, who follow protocol to the T, yet come up with nothing. It’s only when Lizzie begins to piece together some cloudy little half-memories trapped in the back of her mind and takes matters into her own hands that the search for Evie goes from cold to warm to hot. But like I said, this book is not really your typical ‘girl goes missing , where is she’ sort of book – at the very least, that’s what it is about. But to really understand the difference between The End Of Everything and those other books is to know that it is narrated solely by Lizzie and that the reader gets no other information or insight into what is going on other than what Lizzie knows and learns, and we get it all in its purest, rawest form, as it’s been processed through Lizzie’s young and naive mind.
In between the search for Evie and her abductor is a stark coming-of-age story about girlhood, the nitty-gritty of it all and the secrets and truths that come with it during that precious period in a girl’s life when she’s teetering between staying a child and becoming a woman. Any woman will tell you that it’s not always easy being a young girl, and Megan Abbott kind of throws the remembrance of those days back in your face. While The End Of Everything may be quite a bit darker than most of our girlhoods were, there’s a certain knowing, a certain affirmation you get while reading it, and its gorgeously assembled prose sucks you right into it.
I mentioned that the book is narrated by Lizzie, and I have to say, that was my favourite part about it. Seeing the events of Evie’s abduction through Lizzie’s naive and innocent perspective was unnerving, because as more and more of the story went on, I realized that the purer Lizzie’s thought process was about what happened, the more sinister my thoughts and beliefs, as both an outsider and an adult, became. For all its beautiful writing, it sure was an unsettling story to fall into. In fact, more than a day has passed since I finished reading this book and I’m still a bit shaken up about certain secondary aspects of the story, particularly what may or may not have been taking place between Evie’s dad and the girls. Though I’m pretty certain there wasn’t anything physically perverse going on, there was just something in the way Lizzie spoke of him and interacted with him that perturbed me. I tried to brush that feeling off throughout the book, but near the end of it, something (which I won’t spoil, of course) was shared between Lizzie and Evie’s sister that made me think back to something else in the book, and, to say the least, it made me feel weird. Whatever effect Megan Abbott was going for in bringing such a nuance to such a nice man’s personality, be it intentional or not, it certainly worked.
I absolutely devoured this book, finishing it in the same day I picked it up – that’s how much I enjoyed it. I found it to be the perfect read to kick off the early beginnings of summer, and I’d be silly not to recommend it.