Living next door to one another in an unnamed town in the eighties, the two thirteen-year-olds share everything with one another. They know each other bone-deep. Then Evie is kidnapped, the event rocking their community and crippling Evie’s idyllic family. When Lizzie starts rooting around for clues as to where Evie went, she soon learns that maybe she doesn’t know her best friend quite as well as she thought.
Now stay with me on this one, dear reader, because I know what you’re thinking. You see that cover off to the right and you hear The End of Everything is about a middle school girl playing Encyclopedia fucking Brown, and now you’re thinking that this shit ain’t for you. Gotta admit, massive fucking fan of Megan Abbott’s I assuredly fucking am, I was wary of this one at first too, but once I started The End of Everything there was no stopping me until the final fucking page.
The voice of the novel is startlingly distinct, Lizzie’s narration of her story relayed in a dizzying, hormonal rush of highly original prose. You feel all of Lizzie’s wonder, awkwardness, despair, yearning, and budding sexuality in damn near every sentence. Put all those confusing coming-of-age feelings into the pressure cooker of her not knowing what happened to her best friend and you have a character and voice unlike any I’ve ever encountered.
Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best aspect of the novel to try and sell your basement crazy ass on right off the bat. You don’t want to read a novel about, you know, “feelings and junk.” You want darkness and thrills – not horseys and scrunchies.
Well, dear reader, the genius of The End of Everything is how Abbott’s able to explore the darkness and deliver the thrills through this girl’s frantic, confused voice, making the events all that more sinister in a very sly, creepy way. Having a hardened detective investigate a young girl’s disappearance is one thing, but to have a naive young girl experience both the loss of her friend and learn of the warped love and need at the core of sinister men is something truly unsettling.
But what I most love about The End of Everything is how Abbott switches the mystery from “who took the girl” to “why was the girl taken.” The book is more about the secrets and lies Lizzie uncovers than action and suspense scenes, and though said secrets and lies are damaging and frightening, they’re never too “big,” never too outlandish for this very real world we’re inhabiting. The things you’ll learn about what lies in the hearts of young girls are uncomfortable to confront, yet never inauthentic.
With her previous four novels Megan Abbott changed what we thought about noir, bringing an unforced sensuality and femininity to the classic hard-boiled fiction tropes we know and love. Now she has taken the little girl lost sub-genre and made it fucking wound us on a deeper, more relatable level than it ever has before. The End of Everything is a painful and surprising novel that I hope you, my skeptical-ass reader, have the fucking ovaries to pick up toot-fucking-sweet.