The End of Everything by Megan Abbott should do every bit as well as The Lovely Bones. There is not a hint of the paranormal, but the mystery of a missing 13-year-old is just as compelling as the first half of The Lovely Bones, and the layer upon layer of intrigue teemed with everyday issues we’d rather not address will make for some very interesting book club discussions.
As well as being about friendship and families, this powerful novel is about sexuality – across all ages – and particularly the power of sexuality. There is the reminder that sometimes if we allow ourselves to act inappropriately, in however small a way, the effects can be devastating and far-reaching. Just a warm little compliment, just a little dance, just a bit of flirting… can’t hurt, can it?
Two nice, ordinary 13-year-old girls have been best friends for ever, and Lizzie feels like she and Evie are almost one. Then one night, Evie does not come home and Lizzie knows nothing about it. Lizzie is sure Evie’s not dead, though, and begins to feel she knows something but can’t quite put her finger on it. Then, one small memory after another, Lizzie’s mind gives up the clues. “Oh yeah, there was a car that went past twice outside the school… It was maroon.” Meanwhile, the reader is treated to other, more subtle clues as to what’s going on.
Wow, Meg Abbott has done a fabulous job! This story builds up and delves deep at the same time, and could well leave you wondering about your own behaviour socially – how parents act at parties in front of their children, how fathers relate to their teenage daughters, how a mother turning a blind eye can have knock-on tragic consequences.
I wondered if The End of Everything might be a YA, but it is most certainly a novel for grownups. I don’t think younger readers would pick up on the important themes, and while the couple of sex scenes are not particularly graphic, the tone of them is not healthy, in my opinion.
(I finished this book and thought that maybe my strict Methodist great-grandmother was right all along – no lipstick, no loose hair, no dancing, no laughing, no talking with the opposite sex, young or old, and there’ll be no trouble!)
By Jenny Mann