A few months back I read Megan Abbott’s YA novel Dare Me and despite the novel’s caustic depiction of teenage girls, I really loved that book. The End of Everything also tackles the secret lives of girls and, once again, Abbott’s writing is compelling.
Thirteen-year-old Lizzie and Evie are besties. They’ve lived next door to each other their whole lives – swapping bathing suits and secrets. On a bright afternoon, just before school breaks for the summer, Evie disappears. Lizzie remembers
It was long ago, centuries. A quivery mirage of a thirteen-year-old’s summer, like a million other girl summers, were it not for Evie, were it not for Evie’s thumping heart and all those twisting things untwisting.
Thirteen seems incredibly young to me now, but I don’t suppose it did when I was that age – a million years ago. For Evie and Lizzie it is a time of curious longing, especially because Evie has an older sister, Dusty, “a deeply glamorous seventeen.” Compared to Dusty, Evie and Lizzie “were all snips and snails, and when permitted into her candied interior, we were like furtive intruders.”
For Evie and Lizzie, thirteen is an age precariously close to the edge of experience – and both girls seem to want to topple, headlong, over the cliff. After Evie’s disappearance, Lizzie finds herself particularly drawn to Evie’s dad, Mr. Verner. He
could throw a football fifty yards and build princess vanity tables for his daughters and take us roller-skating or bowling, who smelled of fresh air and limes and Christmas nutmeg all at once…I couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t craning my neck to look up at him, forever waiting to hear more, hungry for the moments he would shine his attentions on me
It doesn’t take long for Lizzie to remember a car that she’d seen driving past them on the day Evie disappeared. The suspect is identified and Lizzie makes it her mission to figure out where Evie is. All this makes for page-turning suspense, but that’s not what The End of Everything is really about.
This is a novel about power, sexual power, really, in the hands of girls too young to wield it. It is about an impossible longing girls feel, but don’t wholly understand. It asks the questions for which there are no satisfactory answers. Lizzie wonders why the man took Evie “if he didn’t mean to touch her, to do things to her?” and those thoughts send her to her room where she pulls “out a stack of old, gold-spined horse books, and read[s] them for hours.”
When the truth is finally revealed to Lizzie it is “a dark tunnel I stare down, like I might follow it, like it might swallow me whole and I would let it willingly.”
Abbott’s books are like that – but you have to be fearless to read them.