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Carole Mallory

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Book Review: The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

Posted: 08/04/11 02:37 PM ET

Edgar Award-winning author Megan Abbott takes a scalpel to the origins of incest in her just released noir triumph, The End of Everything.

Thirteen-year-old Lizzie Hood and her best friend Evie Verver are inseparable. So when Evie steps in to a maroon car and drives off with a man three times her age and disappears, the mid-western town is horrified. Lizzie assumes Evie has been kidnapped and worries for her safety, her life. In wonderfully descriptive prose, Abbott weaves a tale of intrigue in which Evie is the center and Lizzie is a teenaged detective. Lizzie knows more about Evie than mostly anyone except for Evie's beautiful, seventeen-year-old sister, Dusty.

Abbott's writing is crisp and clear as to what these charming teenagers look like and how they think and feel, but what is missing is the why Evie stepped into that maroon car and disappeared with a stranger. The why is what this book is about.

Abbott writes about sex in a circuitous fashion. Her prose is erotic and leaves you longing for a conclusion and this keeps you turning those pages.

Lizzie, who is the novel's amateur sleuth, ponders all possibilities including murder. The police enlist Lizzie for any clues she can give to them. She rummages through trash cans, searches the backyard of the Verver home and peers through its windows to try to imagine who and how a stranger was watching Evie in the stillness of each evening. Lizzie is feeling a touch indispensable to solve the disappearance of her best friend while Evie's sister, Dusty Verver, is curiously quiet about the event that led up to Evie's abduction.

This is noir at its finest. Dusty is a teenage sex kitten who has her father's attention and affection while Evie and Lizzie are two average teenagers just busy playing hockey and rough housing with each other.

Mr. Verver, who is Dusty's and Evie's father, is written in a sinister manner and recalls father figures we all might have known in our lives. Fathers whose hands lingered a bit too long on a teenager's flesh. Fathers who made teenage girls feel so special that these blossoming women might fantasize about forbidden thoughts with these potentially lecherous men. These are the areas Abbott explores with her scalpel. She will leave you breathless with intrigue. Still she writes about love and its overriding influence. She does not castigate men, but tries to understand them as her heroines would. There is a fine line between incest and longing and Abbott captures this beautifully.

But just where is Evie? The reader wants to know and keeps turning those pages to the nail biting conclusion. Eroticism is Abbott's forte. She does not write graphically about sex, but it is in the margins of her pages and her character's consciousness as she is on a crash collision course with womanhood and all its joys, accoutrement and heartaches. The conclusion is the solving of the mystery of the disappearance of Evie Verver. It will haunt you as only a modern-day Lolita can.