Is there anything more disturbing than child abduction? In Megan Abbott’s new novel The End of Everything, the answer is yes. Our naïve, earnest protagonist is 13-year-old Lizzie, who feels like a part of herself, her shadow, has gone missing when her best friend Evie disappears after school.
Set in 1980s America in the Midwestern suburbs, where lawns are fed regularly and hockey practice is a religion, Evie and Lizzie have grown up on opposite sides of the street. The girls are so in sync, their bond so fluid, Lizzie sometimes forgets they are separate people and is confused one day when a scar on her thigh is no longer there, only to remember it belongs to Evie. Naturally, she knows more than most about the circumstances under which her friend disappears, but finds it difficult to distinguish between betrayal and feeling betrayed.
As the plot unravels the web of deceit gets all the more tangled: is the princess stolen from the tower or is she rescued? Abbott probes into the relationships between girls and men; daughters and fathers. As the summer heat intensifies the cotton wool around Lizzie falls apart, revealing home truths far more sinister than the neighbourhood could have guessed.
Echoing The Lovely Bones and The Virgin Suicides, The End of Everything explores the torment and frustration of being a 13-year-old girl sat on the white picket fence between innocence and knowing everything. An addictive read, the story unfolds like a dream: hazy and disturbing, you can’t quite shake it off.