Imagine a 13-year old girl, Lizzie Hood, living in near perfect happiness except for the fact that her father has left. Lizzie lives with her brother and mother. Although broken, it's a normal family.
But there's Evie Verver, Lizzie's best friend, and her family. The perfect family.
Until one day, when Evie doesn’t come back from school.
Just like that, Lizzie’s world is shattered, the pieces like slivers of a mirror in which she catches images of her life. As with most broken mirrors, this one can’t be perfectly glued back together and Lizzie starts seeing the deformed reality with some of its secrets and lies and deception. The imperfect world.
“And I now know in a deep, desperate, world-crashing way that there’s no simple anymore, and there never was.”
Imagine a 13-year old girl, Lizzie Hood, longing for a lost friend. Her best friend. She wants to help find Evie but it seems too much at times to have the weight of that task on shoulders so fragile. “(…) I must save her, save them all.”
These others are not entirely like Lizzie, but not unlike her either. One of them is special in her eyes. He’s Evie’s father. Lizzie feels his power over her while sensing the pain like a deep void inside him. She holds on to him, trying to make him feel better, to give him hope. She’d do anything to make him happy.
“There’s a throb in my chest when I see him. (…) Then he turns his head and sees me… And it’s all the wonderful things in the world at once. (…) ‘What would I do without you, Lizzie?’ he says, and the look he gives does rough things to me inside.”
Like any kid trying to get attention, wanting to be noticed and liked (and loved) and vying for a special place in the adult world, Lizzie will often act needy and be pathetic at times without necessarily realizing it. But that’s what keeps her real and alive and focused amongst people who all seem adrift, following the flow of their individual miseries: Lizzie’s mother tries to go on without her long gone husband while Lizzie’s older brother seems a bit disconnected from the dramatic events, as if nothing’s changed; Evie’s sister, who’s always welcomed Lizzie and acted as a big sister, now mistrusts her; Evie’s father clings on Lizzie to keep his hope of finding his daughter, while his wife has already pretty much abandoned all hopes and is hiding in her own sadness and despair.
Through loss and fear and sadness, as well as hope and courage and that new feeling she’s not entirely sure how to describe, Lizzie will discover the world of adults and the important role that she can play in it as the days go by without Evie. Lizzie knows and believes that she can make things better but is unsure how. She decides to assume her role of helping get her friend back, even if it means lying, getting dirty (in different ways) and manipulating.
“I open my mouth. The lie is immense, and I don’t hesitate. (…) The words are magic. (…) I feel so powerful, like a god, thunderbolt in hand. And my thunderbolt hit. ”
If her lost friend comes back, how will it affect Lizzie’s world? Will everything get back to how it was before or is it already too late? Is this the end of everything? Or can there be a new start?
In The End of Everything Megan Abbott writes beautiful yet simple prose. She doesn’t just put us into the mind of a 13-year old girl with a mind and a body aching to grow up, she makes us believe—for 240 plus pages—that Lizzie is real and that she’s telling us that story. Because some of its themes can be troubling and disturbing, it could have been a depressing book; in the hands of Megan Abbott it becomes an emotional ride, a coming-of-age-too-fast story that stays with you long after its resolution. The End of Everything is a gripping story that I have finished reading almost a month ago and that has not let me go yet; I still think about Lizzie, Evie and their world almost every day.
I’m not a big fan of sequels, but I wouldn’t mind if sometime in the future Megan Abbott could find a storyline worth exploring and writing about for Lizzie Hood and Evie Verver as adults. Then again, maybe it would be better just to imagine them living perfect lives with their perfect families. In a perfect world.
P.S.: for what it’s worth, Evie Verver’s and Lizzie Hood’s names can respectively be spelled into Vie Rêvée (Ideal Life) and Oh Idolize. OK, they’re not perfect anagrams, but I thought it was interesting. Evie’s perfect anagram is Ever Revive (or Revive Ever). Seemed fitting, that’s all.