Monday, July 4, 2011

Review: The End of Everything

Summary: Thirteen-year old Lizzie Hood and her next door neighbor Evie Verver are inseparable. They are best friends who swap bathing suits and field-hockey sticks, and share everything that's happened to them. Together they live in the shadow of Evie's glamorous older sister Dusty, who provides a window on the exotic, intoxicating possibilities of their own teenage horizons. To Lizzie, the Verver household, presided over by Evie's big-hearted father, is the world's most perfect place.

And then, one afternoon, Evie disappears. The only clue: a maroon sedan Lizzie spotted driving past the two girls earlier in the day. As a rabid, giddy panic spreads through the Midwestern suburban community, everyone looks to Lizzie for answers. Was Evie unhappy, troubled, upset? Had she mentioned being followed? Would she have gotten into the car of a stranger?

Lizzie takes up her own furtive pursuit of the truth, prowling nights through backyards, peering through windows, pushing herself to the dark center of Evie's world. Haunted by dreams of her lost friend and titillated by her own new power at the center of the disappearance, Lizzie uncovers secrets and lies that make her wonder if she knew her best friend at all. -- Reagan Arthur

I read THE END OF EVERYTHING by Megan Abbott on the way to New York for BEA way back in May. I admit that I was initially drawn to the book because the premise did sound intriguing, and it does qualify for the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge that Kathy/Bermudaonion and I are hosting which is an added bonus. However, the real reason that I read it at that time was because I knew I was going to have the opportunity to meet Ms. Abbott while in New York... and I thought it would be awesome to discuss her latest novel with her. And it was -- I had a blast talking with her about this novel!

THE END OF EVERYTHING is quite a book. It's at times creepy and disturbing, but most of all, it's a terrific read. I finished it on the train and immediately texted Kathy because I couldn't believe what happened. I desperately wanted to talk about it with her because I knew we were both reading it that day; however, I had to wait a few hours until she finished. Believe me when I tell you that she texted me the minute she was done because she really wanted to talk about this novel too. It's just one of those books that leaves you a little breathless -- yet it's also a book that you are just dying to dissect with a friend.

There truly are so many great things about THE END OF EVERYTHING that I hardly know where to begin. Probably what stuck out to me the most was Ms. Abbott's writing. This is the first novel that I've read by her, but I immediately wanted to explore all of her other works. Ms. Abbott created drama and tension so well in this story. The mystery aspect of this book was very, very good (and more than a little scary), and I absolutely loved how the pace of the novel sped up as the story reached its conclusion. I definitely was kept on the edge of my (train) seat; and I found much of this story to be kind of dark and depressing, but most of all disconcerting. (And it's so ironic because Ms. Abbott is so sweet and positively adorable!)

While I did enjoy how THE END OF EVERYTHING focused on the disappearance of a young girl and the mystery surrounding it, I think what I most appreciated about this novel, though, were the major themes that it explored. In fact, I loved how this book caused me to reflect and think. Like Evie, I was a preteen during the early 1980s and there were quite a few references that resonated with me and made me remember things from my childhood. While I never experienced a horrendous event like the disappearance of a friend, I could still relate to the feelings and confusion that Evie was experiencing as they related to friendship and loss of innocence.

The story was told in Evie's voice and I was pleasantly surprised by how well Ms. Abbott managed to capture the voice of a thirteen year old girl. I thought she did a fantastic job of showing how girls at this age shift between being little girls and young women. It's such a crucial age for change and self awareness, and Evie's character reflected both of these things perfectly. While I would agree that THE END OF EVERYTHING is first and foremost a psychological thriller, I would also argue that it is a coming-of-age story in many ways.

As I mentioned earlier, THE END OF EVERYTHING is just begging to be discussed. I honestly believe that some of the events in the book are open to interpretation and I do think that different readers will have different reactions to some of the scenes. And that's why it would make such an interesting book club pick. In addition, the characters in this book are nothing short of fascinating and I can vouch that they are fun to talk about. (Kathy and I spend quite awhile in New York just talking about this novel and its characters.) There is a reading guide available with nine thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes that you might want to explore include grief, friendship, family dynamic, parent/child relationships, loss of innocence, and secrets.

If you are looking for a literary mystery that's sure to affect you, then I highly recommend THE END OF EVERYTHING!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a "somewhat" regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Beth Kephart said...

I love how you give us not just the story of the story, but the story of you and Kathy reading the story.

Fabulous post (as always).

Happy Fourth!!

Beth F said...

Great post! I too like the history of your reading this book.

I was unsure about reading this one for some reason. Now you've made me want to give it a try.

bermudaonion said...

You know I loved this book! It would be great for a book club - we certainly had a lot to say about it!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Sounds like a winner! I think I need to read this one soon!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Ever since hearing how excited you and Kathy got about this, I've had it on my list!

Amy said...

This does sound like a great book, I'll have to check it out. :)

Erica said...

we're doing this one for my book club next month!