*This review will contain spoilers!*
‘It’s happening, that’s what I think, but even as the words come to me, I don’t know what they mean. In some tucked-off way, it seems like whatever is happening had already been happening, for so long, a falling feeling inside, something nameless, a perilous feelings, and I don’t know what to do with it.’
I’ve been looking at reading Megan Abbott’s novels since the release of ‘The Fever’, but I decided to start with ‘The End of Everything’ because the synopsis grabbed me. It’s rather ambiguous, as it has a contemporary feel but deals with the harrowing topic of child abduction, which was a mix that I hadn’t read before.
Lizzie and Evie are best friends, and have been for as long as either of them can remember. They tell each other everything: secrets about boys, gossip about Evie’s older sister, Dusty… They’re inseparable. Until one day in May, when Evie goes missing on her way home from school. Lizzie had a feeling that something was wrong, because a maroon car was circling in front of the school while she was waiting to get a lift home, but she shrugged it off until she heard the news the next day.
It turns out that the car belongs to a Mr. Shaw, an insurance broker who works with Evie’s family. He’s local, and he’s well known in the community, so it spreads like shock waves when he’s the one suspected of abducting Evie. But there’s much more behind the kidnapping, such as the fact that Mr. Shaw has been watching Evie through her bedroom window regularly for months, and Evie has been completely aware of what he’s been doing. Lizzie gets it into her head that Mr. Shaw is in love with Evie, and has been for a while, and Evie is accepting of this fact because she “never had boys buzzing, swarming”, so this is the first male attention she has ever received.
If you’re looking to read something psychological, this is definitely one for you. It’s completely and utterly Freudian. Evie’s father gives her sister more attention that her, so Evie is jealous of their relationship (going so far as to accuse Dusty of being in love with him) and runs off with the first older man who shows affection towards her. Lizzie, while her best friend has disappeared and is potentially dead, spends all of her time with Mr Verver, struggling with her feelings and certain that he feels something back for her – combine that with the fact that Lizzie has an estranged father, and the layers get even deeper. These characters couldn’t have bigger Electra complexes if they tried.
It’s described as a coming-of-age story, and it definitely succeeds with that. Evie and Lizzie are both thirteen, and are equally boy obsessed and beginning to fantasize about sex. Because of the young age of the protagonist, it does make things seem a little off – I understand that it’s meant to be portraying feminine urges and explorations as natural and realistic, but it does seem inappropriate to have girls this young in these situations. It makes the abduction of Evie even more shocking, but when she is returned and confides in Lizzie that all of the sexual relations between her and Mr. Shaw were completely consensual… There’s something wrong. It could be hinting towards Stockholm Syndrome, but I don’t get that feeling, so it just gives me the heebie jeebies.
Despite the controversial subject matter, I did enjoy Megan Abbott’s writing style. The simplicity of Lizzie’s voice made it a very fast read, and I got through this much quicker than I’d expected, even though I didn’t exactly enjoy her as a protagonist – the fact that it’s coming-of-age means that the characters don’t really know themselves, so there was a lot of confusion and internal debating, and it didn’t feel realistic to me. Lizzie was very certain that Mr. Shaw and Evie love each other, which adds a kind of purity to their relationship, when that really shouldn’t be the case – I don’t know anyone who would blindly accept that at the age of thirteen. As well as this, there was a lot of repetition based on flutters in stomachs and hot feelings, which made sense due to the nature of the novel but still got old fast. I couldn’t really click with Lizzie’s voice, so I felt a bit disconnected throughout.
I actually didn’t enjoy ‘The End of Everything’ as much as I’d expected to. Maybe it’s the British thing, with our prim and proper attitudes and our inability to be open about intimate topics. I just couldn’t shake the icky feeling throughout the entire novel. It was definitely thought-provoking, and I haven’t read a novel so tightly focused on Freud’s concepts in a while which was a plus, but I didn’t love it.