The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

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The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: One minute Evie is there, the next minute she's gone. Her neighbour, thirteen-year-old Lizzie, is left behind, wondering if her best friend is still alive and, if she is, what terrible things might be happening to her. The book describes Lizzie's fumbling and occasionally foolhardy attempts to discover the truth about Evie's fate, and the many family secrets the abduction eventually uncovers.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Picador
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0330535458

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On the surface this book is about the disappearance of a thirteen-year-old girl. Her best friend and neighbour Lizzie relates how she searches for clues, how she discovers that a local man may be involved, and how Evie and Lizzie's families struggle to cope. But look again at the title. What really unfolds here is the story of the effect a single incident has on three families, not two, how that one event came about, and why nothing will ever be the same for everyone involved. It is a book which is complex, deep and very, very intense.

The first thing to know is that although the two main characters are only thirteen, this is not a book for the pre-adolescent – unless a parent reads the book first and is willing to discuss the issues it brings up. The story is a memory, told with the maturity of language and understanding of a woman, and with all the lyricism of sexual awakening remembered. It is a reflection on the innocence and ignorance of youth, on the unforeseen effects of hasty actions, and on secrets so well hidden even family members barely suspect them.

Lizzie has always envied Evie's perfect family life, especially since her own father went away. To her, Evie and her glamorous older sister Dusty are princesses, feted and adored by their golden, king-like father, and she longs to be part of that enchanted circle. If he would only whisper to her as he does to his own girls, and dance with her in the garden in the fading light of a summer evening! The family seems to need no one else: boys worship Dusty from afar, sitting in cars outside her house in the hopes of a fleeting glimpse, but she spurns them all. Evie and Lizzie are intensely close, discussing Dusty and her followers long into the night, comparing their own budding breasts and planning how to improve at hockey. They have no secrets, no thoughts hidden from each other; they know each other bone-deep.

Then Evie disappears on the way home from school one day, and Lizzie discovers that there is a whole side to her friend she had never known. Evie too had an admirer who stood outside her window and worshipped her, and it is a shock almost as terrible as the loss of her friend that Evie never told Lizzie about him. Life seems suddenly full of confusion: there is the mystery of Dr Aiken, and the curious behaviour of Dusty, suddenly determined to avoid the family home. Lizzie can make little sense of it all, but in the midst of her grief and bewilderment comes a secret joy, as Evie's father starts to treat her with all the confiding charm and lightness he used to reserve for his girls, to such an extent that Lizzie begins to feel she is the only true daughter he needs. Violence and horror shatter this growing idyll, and Lizzie finds she must evaluate once again everything she thought she had learned.

There is no doubt the issues raised in this book are disturbing, and its haunting, fevered atmosphere remains in the reader's mind long after the book is closed. The emotions are raw, and the fact that they are experienced by girls barely into adolescence adds poignancy to the unease. Not one of the main characters truly understands their own feelings and actions, except perhaps the man who abducts Evie, and his awareness drives inexorably to further tragedy. The story of what happened to Evie is resolved by the last page, but motives and emotions are not so easily tidied away, and the twist in the final pages leaves the impression of a story which will live on in Lizzie's heart. The End of Everything is an uncomfortable book at times, demanding a great deal of its reader, but it is a compelling tale, and one which will not be readily forgotten.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: There are too many echoes of The Lovely Bones here to omit it as a recommendation. It is not a copycat by any means, but both books deal with terrible things happening to a young teenage girl and the effects on people around her. And for another story about sweet and silly youth getting itself into a dreadful situation, and thereby destroying the lives and happiness of others, try Fallout by Sandra Glover.

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Buy The End of Everything by Megan Abbott at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The End of Everything by Megan Abbott at


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