Megan Abbott: The End of Everything (2011)

Megan Abbott

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.

23 thoughts on “Megan Abbott: The End of Everything (2011)

  1. I really like this one, but my fav. Abbott to date remains This Song is You. I tried the latest: The Fever and couldn’t get into it at all, but then hysterical teen girls isn’t my thing.

    • I’ve got This Song is You after reading your review. I should read it. I liked her writing a great deal.
      At first when I bought this, I didn’t even realize it’s the same author. It seemed very different.

    • I found it had beauty and disturbing passages but it was excellent. She’s so not your everyday crime writer.
      From other reactions I gathered some of her older books might be even better. I hope you”l like it should you give it a try.

  2. This mystery sounds very intriguing, but I have a thirteen-year-old goddaughter so it might prove too disturbing a read for me right now. Great review, and very useful for the library volunteering work I’m involved with as you’ve conveyed an excellent sense of the book. Crime fiction is very popular round our way.

    The Virgin Suicides is an excellent (but very disturbing) book, well worth a look.

    • I found it quite disturbing. Some of it not exactly for the reasons you might think. It’s really not your average mystery. I’ll read The Virging Sucides some day but I’m sure it’s disturbing.

  3. Great commentary Caroline.

    The Virgin Suicides was a really good film though I too have not read the book

    .I agree that the unusual mix of certain elements make this book sound very appealing. It does sound like the Virgin Suicides.

  4. I remember when this one came out in the UK – there was a fair bit of hype around it and I probably avoided it unjustly. Megan Abbott is definitely one of those authors on my realy-MUST-try list. This sounds a lot more intriguing in your review than it did when I read the blurb on the back in the book shop!

  5. Your description of the book made me think of Harriet Said, Beryl Bainbridge’s 1950s novel. You might like it if you ever come across it. I’ve never read anything by Megan Abbott but I’d like to give this one a try.

    The Virgin Suicides is an excellent book. The focus is a little different compared with the film. I love the film, though. Kirsten Dunst is just luminous.

    • I love Kirsten Dunst. I that movie in any case. Luminous is a good word.
      I’ve read another of Beryl Bainbridge’s novels and would have made the comparison but I’ll look into Harriet Said.

  6. Thanks for the pingback. I’m glad you liked this one, I thought it had tremendous atmosphere and captured adolescence very well. You’re right to say it’s a mistake to focus too much on the crime. The crime sets things in motion, but the things as your quote says are already there.

    I really like Abbott from what I’ve read of her so far. Dare Me is probably my next.

    • You’re welcome. I did like it. A lot of it is so well captured. But I found it more surreal than realistic but that’s because of the atmopshere.
      I thought the adolescent crushes were very well done.
      I’ll read her again, that’s for sure.

  7. I love coming of age stories–all the more when they have a twist like this–more than just one type of story with lots going on in it. I am not at all familiar with her, so this is a new to me book and I will have to add it to my wishlist. Even though you didn’t really ‘sign on’ to do any RIP reading, this is really a perfect choice!

    • I think this is a book for you. And she’s an author worth discovering. I know you like a ll sorts of crime and this one is unusual and the atmopshere is great.
      I’m very interested to hear your thoughts.

  8. Max, now you, it’s two good recommendations. I’m tempted but unsure about a book including a child abduction. I rather like coming of age novels.

  9. Wonderful review, Caroline. This looks like an interesting book. I love the title. The child abduction part and the potential violence involved there makes it look scary but your description of Abbott’s prose and the other aspects of the book make it look very interesting. I will keep an eye for it. I haven’t seen the movie version of ‘The Virgin Suicides’ but I want to watch it some day – any movie directed by Sophia Coppola has to be awesome 🙂

    • Thanks, Vishy.
      I’m glad to hear you’re a fan of Sophia Coppola’s movies too.
      The book is not a typical mystery, although it has mystery elements. It’s more a look into the drak side of suburbia. I like her writing a lot.

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