To set the mood, let me start this post with a quote from the early pages of Megan Abbott’s unusual crime novel The End of Everything:
These are all the good things, and there were such good things. But then there were the other things, and they seemed to come later, but what if they didn’t? What if everything was there all along, creeping soundlessly from corner to corner, shuddering fast from Evie’s nighttime whispers, from the dark hollows of that sunny-shingled house, and I didn’t hear it? Didn’t see it?
This is a book full of nighttime encounters, people whispering in the dark, sitting on porches, in front of houses or lounging in basements. It’s a hot summer and Lizzie, the narrator is a 13-year-old girl, discovering attraction, sexual feelings and unsettling uncertainty for the first time. Lizzie and Evie are best friends, they are like one body, as Lizzie tells us. They share everything, or so Lizzie believes, until the day Evie disappears. The police and her parents give up quickly. They think that Evie must be dead and buried somewhere, abducted by a pervert, abused and killed. Only Lizzie is sure that Evie is still alive. She saw Mr Shaw drive by in a car twice, just before Evie went missing and points the police in his direction.
The police seem to turn in circles. Mr Shaw has disappeared as well but that might just be a coincidence. Finally Lizzie takes matters into her own hands and starts to investigate. Telling you more would spoil the book.
Megan Abboott writes incredibly well. This is a novel rich in mood and atmosphere but it’s also a deeply disturbing novel. Everyone in this book is sneaking and creeping around. Although there’s a child abduction and possible abuse, the creepiest character for me was Mr Verver, Evie’s father. Lizzie has a major crush on him and so does Dusty, the older of the two Verver girls. That in itself is disturbing but what is far more disturbing is how Mr Verver encourages the girls, especially his own daughter. He never really does anything inappropriate but he balances dangerously close to the abyss. At first I thought he sounded like a wonderful father because he spends so much time with his daughters but the more I read about him, the creepier he sounded. And that’s just one layer of this darkly rich novel, which brilliantly depicts the dark side of suburbia.
What was certainly interesting was how Megan Abbott combined a crime and a coming of age novel. The book reminded me of the movie the Virgin Suicides (I’ve still not read the book but I’m pretty sure there are similarities). I never felt The End of Everything was an entirely realistic depiction of teenage girls, I found it rather surreal. I’m not even sure when this is set. At times it felt like the 80s, at times even like early 60s.
If you like your crime unusual and are fond of coming of age stories, dreamlike atmosphere and lovely writing, you shouldn’t miss this.
After I bought this novel, I discovered that Max reviewed it not too long ago. As usual, his review is well-worth reading.