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Book Review-“The End of Everything”

Ah suburban living! You’ve got the privacy of your own home, but the community experience of next door neighbors. You’ve got safe places for your kids to learn and play. It’s an idyllic paradise where everyone is living a happy, normal life. The truth of the matter is though that there is just as much darkness in the suburbs as there are other places human congregate. It just knows how to hide better in the suburbs. It lurks behind closed doors and a facade of secrets and lies that suburban dwellers tell themselves. Some very compelling and memorable stories have shined a light on the darkness that lives and grows secretly in the suburbs. My favorites of these types of stories include the television show “Twin Peaks,” the movie “American Beauty,” and now Megan Abbott’s latest crime novel “The End of Everything.”

In “The End of Everything” we see things through the eyes of Lizzie Hood, who serves as a first person narrator. When we meet Lizzie she’s 13 and growing up in the suburban midwest of the 1980s. Her home life is not the best. Her mother is still struggling to find happiness in the wake of a divorce, and her older brother is distant and aloof. So Lizzie spends most of her time next door with her best friend Evie Verver and her family. Evie and Lizzie are so close that they are practically sisters, but Evie’s biological sister the beautiful and tough Dusty also plays a part in their lives. The family member that looms largest though in Lizzie and Evie’s life is Evie’s father, Mister Verver, who even though she never directly admits it to us readers Lizzie has started to fall in love with.

One summer right before she graduates 8th grade Lizzie’s world is shattered when Evie disappears on her. Having been one of the last people to see her friend Lizzie feels personally responsible and wracks her brain for clues to where Evie may have gone. What she uncovers is the strangeness and dark side to her neighborhood and the Verver household. As the days goes on and Evie does not reemerge Lizzie grows desperate and begins to carry our her own investigation into what happened to her friend based on the secrets that best friends tell each other.

Lizzie’s desperate quest and how it forces her to reevaluate her life and her surroundings is what makes “The End of Everything” so readable and so haunting. It gives the story a sense of urgency and dread. The mystery of what happened to Evie is of course intriguing because you like the characters, but throughout the book there’s a palpable feel of shocking and forbidden knowledge lurking just outside the reader and Lizzie’s grasp. You desperately want to know that secret, but the way Abbott fires your imagination you’re not sure you want to know. So in a sense “The End of Everything isn’t just a good crime novel, it’s also a really good horror novel in a way.

What makes “The End of Everything” even better is Lizzie and Abbott’s vibrant description of everything. Lizzie’s entire world is brought to life in crisp colors, textures and feelings. So it’s even more effective when you start to get the sense that something is rotten in it. Abbott blends that with a fairly quick pace which gives the “The End of Everything” an almost ethereal feel. It’s like a beautiful and frightening fever dream.

I like to keep my reviews spoiler free so all I’ll say about the end of the book is that it offers up a conclusion that is satisfying, realistic, and haunting. So all in all “The End of Everything” was a mesmerizing and compelling novel that shined a light into some of the twisted, uncomfortable feelings, corruption, and darkness that grows and thrives in the dark places of suburban communities.

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