Megan Abbott’s The End of Everything

Warning: Triggering and Spoilers

I bought this yesterday in the Jubilee Kindle sale on Amazon. I really have to stop buying books based on price because, so far, it hasn’t gone well [Christa Allen’s Walking on Broken Glass being a prime case in point; nasty misogynistic rape/ domestic violence apologist shite]. I did buy Helen Castor’s She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth for 99p in the sale. I have high hopes for that book.

The basic plot of Megan Abbott’s The End of Everything is the disappearance of a 13 year old girl told from the viewpoint of her best friend. The product description is this:

Lizzie and Evie are inseparable. They walk home from school together, sleep over at each other’s houses, even flirt with boys together. And they tell each other everything. Or at least, that’s what Lizzie thinks — until Evie goes missing, and Lizzie suddenly realises their friendship wasn’t quite what she thought.

I have to say I find this description quite creepy. They don’t “flirt” with boys together. There are several scenes of “small sexual assaults”; one in which Lizzie is bullied into allowing a 16 year old boy touch her breasts whilst he masturbates. That’s not “flirting”. It’s a criminal offence. Dusty, the older sister of Evie, is being stalked by not just one boy who insists of parking outside her house night after night but by several other boys as well. There are no healthy sexual relationships amongst the teenagers. It is a catalogue of sexual abuse by teenage boys who believe they are entitled to abuse the bodies of two barely 13 year olds. Lizzie is incredibly naive about sexuality whilst Evie knows more than a child should.

And, that’s what I find really troubling about this book. What it really is about is Lizzie discovering Evie’s “secrets” which amounts to the long-term rape of her sister Dusty by Evie’s father. Evie “runs away” [and both Dusty and Lizzie define it in these terms] because she is jealous of her father’s relationship with Dusty. Evie is an emotionally abused child living in a house poisoned by incest. It is not her “choice” to run away with the child rapist; nor can she “consent” to her rape as Evie tries to justify it to herself. Her mother remains peripheral due her drug dependency although it is quite clear that the mother knows what is happening to Dusty and only emerges from her drug haze to care for Evie after she has been raped by the man who kidnapped her. All the adults in Evie’s life have let her down. Her best friend Lizzie is trapped in a delusion of “love” and is too blind to see Evie asking for help. 

The book ends with Lizzie helping Evie and Dusty cover up the incest in order to protect their father [a man who tries to groom Lizzie after Evie disappears]. And, yes, it’s a book based on a 13 year old’s understanding of a situation that no child should have to understand but still the book read wrong to me. I was racing to finish it with a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach hoping that the secret wasn’t what I thought it would be but it was. I really didn’t like this book. It just read false is so many ways. I can see what Abbott was trying to do but I don’t think she succeeded.

I also remain incensed at how these books are advertised like with The Paris Wife. The sexual assault of young teenage girls by older boys is not “flirting” and its this kind of twaddle only serves to reinforce our rape culture.

2 thoughts on “Megan Abbott’s The End of Everything”

  1. For the record, the author has clarified (in interviews) what I thought when I read it, which is that there’s no incest in this story. It’s true that the nature of Mr. Verver’s inappropriate attentions toward Daisy verge on the romantic, and that Evie’s choices stem from being in her sister’s shadow, and her sister getting all her father’s affection, so I guess you could say there’s a (kind of) emotional incest. But not the way you’re reading it.

  2. Really? I think I find that worse actually. The book is so full of stories of sexual abuse passed off as “normal” sexual behaviour that I find it difficult to believe the author didn’t realise that would be another reading of the story. It’s quite irresponsible and makes me regret even reading the book.

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