Lizzie Hood and Evie Verver live right next door to each other and are constantly together, until the day Evie vanishes. The two are the very best of friends. At age 13, they hardly realize that they're balanced precariously between childhood and adulthood. As the story opens, it seems (although she would probably not voice this) that Lizzie feels more like a child, still, with her future as an adult spread out distantly in front of her. She would swear that she knows her life-long best friend Evie as well as she knows herself. They spend every minute together, playing, gossiping and sleeping over.
"THE END OF EVERYTHING looks unflinchingly at obsession, as well as the nature of friendship and the sometimes dark but always complicated underpinnings of families."
One of their shared passions is pondering the life of Dusty, Evie's 17-year-old sister. Dusty is a beautiful and glamorous field hockey star, with green eyes, golden eyelashes and a curvy figure. She seems like an exotic creature to Lizzie and Evie, who furtively prowl through Dusty's bedroom where her grooming products and clothing are like exhibits in a museum of maturity.
Lizzie is enthralled with Evie's family life and home. She has spent nearly as many waking hours in Evie's house as in her own. She knows the books they have on their bookshelves, the scent of the lotion on Mrs. Verver's dressing table, and the tactile touch of each piece of furniture in their house. However, Mrs. Verver is not very interesting to Lizzie. She is a bland, quiet woman who spends most of her free time immersed in novels. On the other hand, Mr. Verver enthralls Lizzie. She says:
"Oh, and Mr. Verver, Mr. Verver, Mr. Verver, he's the one always vibrating in my chest, under my fingernails, in all kinds of places. There's much to say of him and my mouth can't manage it, even now. He hums there still."
Yes, Lizzie is obsessed with Mr. Verver --- a fascination that only increases after her best friend disappears, and she and Evie's father spend time together pondering how to find and retrieve her. The disappearance happens on a day much like any other day. After school on this afternoon, Lizzie is to go shopping with her mother for an eighth-grade graduation dress. She offers Evie a ride home, but Evie refuses as a maroon car passes by them for the second time. When Lizzie climbs in to her mother's car, she could never guess that Evie will not return home and that her world will be changed forever.
Later, when Lizzie ponders what could have become of her friend, clues open up to her. She realizes she knows more than she first thought about how this unfathomable event could have occurred. But what Lizzie knows is not necessarily the story the adults believe. How can she get them to follow the clues she knows are the genuine ones leading to Evie in her hiding place?
Set in the 1980s in a placid Midwestern suburb, THE END OF EVERYTHING looks unflinchingly at obsession, as well as the nature of friendship and the sometimes dark but always complicated underpinnings of families. These revelations can feel disconcertingly private and personal; it's not always comfortable to read, but it never fails to be fascinating. Megan Abbott's latest is an urgent, dark and dream-like suspense tale that I found nearly impossible to put down.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on July 7, 2011
The End of Everything