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The End of Everything: A Novel Hardcover – July 7, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; 1 edition (July 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316097799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316097796
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #784,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Thirteen-year old Lizzie Hood and her next door neighbor Evie Verver are inseparable. They are best friends who swap bathing suits and field-hockey sticks, and share everything that's happened to them. Together they live in the shadow of Evie's glamorous older sister Dusty, who provides a window on the exotic, intoxicating possibilities of their own teenage horizons. To Lizzie, the Verver household, presided over by Evie's big-hearted father, is the world's most perfect place.

And then, one afternoon, Evie disappears. The only clue: a maroon sedan Lizzie spotted driving past the two girls earlier in the day. As a rabid, giddy panic spreads through the Midwestern suburban community, everyone looks to Lizzie for answers. Was Evie unhappy, troubled, upset? Had she mentioned being followed? Would she have gotten into the car of a stranger?

Lizzie takes up her own furtive pursuit of the truth, prowling nights through backyards, peering through windows, pushing herself to the dark center of Evie's world. Haunted by dreams of her lost friend and titillated by her own new power at the center of the disappearance, Lizzie uncovers secrets and lies that make her wonder if she knew her best friend at all.

Author One-on-One: Megan Abbott and Sara Gran

In this Amazon.com exclusive, author Megan Abbott is interviewed by Sara Gran (Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead) about The End of Everything.

Megan Abbott

Sara Gran: The End of Everything shares common themes with your previous four novels, yet stands out as a departure—it takes place in the 1980s (your other novels took place before you were born), the narrator is 13 years old (your previous narrators were adult women), and it takes place in the suburbs (as opposed to the urban settings of your other books). How is The End of Everything the same? How is it different?

Megan Abbott: I wanted to try something new, to shake things up for myself. To move out of the world of nightclubs, racetracks, movie studios and, most of all, to move out of the past, worlds I never knew. When I first started writing, though, everything felt foreign, puzzling. I didn’t know if I could adapt my style to this new setting and time period. My past books were so influenced by Golden Age Hollywood movies and that heightened style. And I’d done this foolish thing, giving myself a 13-year-old girl as my narrator. But as I wrote, I just had this revelation that, for most 13-year-old girls, life is dramatic and the stakes feel dramatically high. It’s all desire and fear and longing and disillusion. Everything feels big and terrifying and thrilling. And my past books, I see now, are so much about women feeling trapped and seeking a way out, at any cost. And feeling trapped, and wanting out, is very much the state of being 13.

Gran: What were the body of influences you drew from in creating this character and this story? Lizzie, your narrator, is a bit of a girl detective, uncovering secrets about her placid suburban town--were you a Nancy Drew fan?

Abbott: I never intended Lizzie to be such an active agent in the book. My original thought was she would be a somewhat passive observer. But, as she grew in my head, she began to want things, and then she sort of took over. While I don’t think I precisely had Nancy Drew in my head, I was a voracious reader of mysteries as a kid and I do think there’s a natural affinity between writers and detectives (and I don’t have to tell you this, in light of all the magic you cast with your detective in Claire De Witt and the City of the Dead). To me, that link is a desire to look in places you’re not supposed to. To be a voyeur. And, as with many voyeurs (and detectives), you can only peek so long before you want "in." Which is the life of most 13 year olds anyway, isn’t it? I see the adult world. I want "in."

Sara Gran

Gran: How did you get back into the mind of a 13-year-old girl? Or is there a part of we adult women that has never left?

Abbott: I’m alarmed at how natural it felt. I’ve heard it said that we’re all arrested at a certain age, and for me it’s 13, which is probably why I landed at that age. But I think it’s an especially powerful age for girls. It’s the moment you peer with widest eyes into womanhood, or are flung there. It’s an age of constant push-pull, wanting to leap forward and yet often retreating in the face of real adulthood, and the price of it. I think many women look back on that age as the moment of great anticipation and often painful revelation.

Gran: To what degree, especially compared to you other books, is The End of Everything autobiographical?

Abbott: In terms of time and place, it’s definitely lifted straight from my growing-up years in Grosse Pointe, Michigan in the early 1980s. Before, I always wrote as an escape, a fantasy exercise to enter these shimmering, foreign worlds. My own world felt pretty mundane, not worthy of such an adventure. But somehow, maybe it was the flush of nostalgia, I was able to crawl my way back into some long-lost feeling from my childhood. That feeling of possibility, mystery, risk that suffuses all your surroundings. Also, I’m now at the age where the 1980s seems like a lost era. And I’m a sentimentalist, of course!

Gran: Tell me a little about the suburbs, especially the suburbs where this book takes place, a fictionalized version of Grosse Pointe? What is it that we love and hate so much about these liminal spaces (not urban, not rural)? Why do some of us have something like a fear of the suburbs (as I do!)?

Abbott: I love that you, a Brooklyn girl, could feel that way! I do think of suburbs as “halfway” places because it suggests a sense of complication and mystery when I think the rap they get is that they are places of conformity or hypocrisy or tedium. I think they occupy this strangely contradictory place between utter hidden-ness and this sense of vivid exposure. In the Midwest, at least, it’s impolite to poke your nose in your neighbor’s business. At the same time, there’s something unbearably intimate about them. Because of the way many suburbs of my era were designed, as kids you would end up running through each other’s backyards, hiding out in the basement, hearing all the sounds in the upper floors, uncovering secrets. So there’s this tug of war, the instinct to protect oneself, to hide one’s desires or sorrows and the simultaneous desire to reach out, to pry, to touch each other, to connect. That tension is palpable, fascinating.

All that easy mockery of the suburbs drives me crazy. To me, they’re places of yearning, which is maybe true of all places.

Gran: Throughout the course of The End of Everything, Lizzie uncovers secret after secret about her placid town. What role do secrets, in general, play in our lives? Are they gifts, treasures, curses, or burdens?

Abbott: I think that being 13 is in many ways like an endless process of revelation, and disillusionment. You carry all these ideas of the world, and yourself, and in many ways they all get punctured, one by one. But then somehow you manage to build new ones up. And you start to carry your own secrets, which I guess Lizzie will too.

Gran: You’re known for, among other things, pushing the boundaries of genre definitions. While your previous books fit well into the “crime” genre, they also contain elements of literary fiction, historical fiction, and mystery. Where does this new book fit in, both in terms of genre in general and in terms of your own list? Is genre relevant to you as a writer—does thinking about these categories help or hinder you as you work?

Abbott: My impulse is to say I don’t believe in genre distinctions. But I guess I’ve come to think that all novels are mysteries. Reading them, you are always that detective/voyeur, peering in, sifting through its secrets, sometimes wanting to enter the story itself, to sink yourself into those worlds. I admit, I love that John Gardner quote: all stories have one of two plots: someone goes on a journey; or a stranger comes to town. Sometimes both. Usually both.

Gran: I find that for me, every book I write leads naturally into the next on—every book is almost like a bus or a train that takes me right where you need to go to catch the next bus—i.e., to write the next book. So what have you been working on since The End of Everything? How did The End of Everything lead you to the next book?

Abbott: I love that bus analogy. That’s exactly how it feels, like the seed of the new book is sown at the very end of the last one, though I never know how it got there. My next book, Dare Me, comes directly from writing about girls’ field hockey in The End of Everything. It’s set in the world of high school cheerleading. The ferocity of that sport, the way it unleashes this inner rage, fascinated me. I see something similar lurking in cheerleading. It’s no longer dancing and pompom shaking. It’s rather dazzling and frequently death defying and it speaks to the dark and bold nature of girls, aspects of themselves that too often remain hidden. In cheerleading, it’s given full reign. Which is something to see.

Megan Abbott photo by Drew Reilly

Review

"Stirring...[a] storytelling feat."—New York Times

"A haunting story...evoke[s] the furtive blossoming of adolescent sexuality...that lies beneath the ice cream shops and sprinklered lawns of '80s suburbia."—Entertainment Weekly

"Fans of Tana French and Kate Atkinson will welcome Abbott's haunting psychological thriller ... Abbott expertly captures the nuances of lost innocence and childhood friendships, without ever losing an undercurrent of menace."—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"A mesmerizing psychological thriller and a freshly imagined coming-of-age story, will draw comparisons to The Lovely Bones."—Los Angeles Times

"THE END OF EVERYTHING will haunt you as only a modern-day Lolita can."—Huffington Post

"The writing is anything but typical, as Abbott's inventive use of language to build imagery reads more like poetry than prose."—Boston Globe

"A sensitive, unconventional tale about the infinitely complex mystery of sexual awakening that lingers in the mind long after the book is finished."—The Guardian (UK)

"THE END OF EVERYTHING is Abbott's most refined and rapturous offering yet."—Los Angeles Review of Books

"An accomplished psychological thriller... a highly skilful novel, taut, addictive, full of stuff to keep you hungrily reading."—Sunday Times of London

More About the Author

MEGAN ABBOTT is the Edgar award-winning author of six novels, including Dare Me, The End of Everything and Bury Me Deep. Her writing has appeared in Detroit Noir, Queens Noir, Phoenix Noir, New York Times and Los Angeles Times Magazine. She is the author of The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir and editor of A Hell of a Woman, a female crime fiction anthology. She has been nominated for awards including the Steel Dagger, the LA Times Book Prize and the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she is working on the screenplay for her novel, Dare Me, soon to be a major motion picture.

Born in the Detroit area, she graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English Literature and went on to receive her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University. She lives in Queens, New York City.

Customer Reviews

The writing is absolutely beautiful.
JHammons
Honestly I wanted the book to end but I couldn't just stop reading it.
jazmine
Lizzie and Evie Verver are thirteen-year old best friends.
Sandy Bose

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Melissa VINE VOICE on August 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Lizzie was the last person to see her best friend, Evie Verver. For thirteen years the two had been inseparable, but now Evie was gone. The only clue was the maroon car Lizzie had seen right before she left Evie to go shopping with her mom. When the police were not able to locate her, Lizzie began her own search to find out where Evie may have been taken. However, as Lizzie dug deeper, she began to realize the friend she thought she knew was someone quite different. In a dark and rather disturbing novel, The End of Everything is brilliantly written, but difficult to read.

Had I realized what this book was going to be about and how it was written, I would not have picked it up. It's a good book, but right now I just want to read something light and fluffy to wipe away the images that were left behind by this story. It's sad, disturbing, and not at all what I was expecting. Instead of a novel that revolves around solving a crime, it's told by thirteen year old Lizzie and is very much a loss of innocence book. I was not prepared to dive into a world of romanticized pedophilia or teenage sexuality. It's not that these issues were glorified, but they're there none the less and not something I was expecting or prepared to read.

This is an exceptionally well written book. Abbott has a great ability to create vivid images and evoke strong emotions. She does a nice job of setting the atmosphere and capturing the mind of a child who knows much, but really doesn't know anything. However, it's her writing talents that are also a detriment. It's hard to read a story where the thirteen year old narrator was seeing the kidnapper as possessing a great love for the child he's taken.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ne_Philim on August 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Replete with Daddy issues and twisted sibling rivalry, this novel has an insidiously disturbing effect that creeps up on you long after you think a particular plot point has been resolved. It's not so much the horrible events of this novel that will haunt you, but rather the horrible character defects and petty jealousies that allow them to happen. I recommend this novel if you like really dark psychological suspense.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By KarenBookLover on November 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I started off really enjoying the book;I'm very fond of adult books with teenage narrators, and I like Abbott's writing. However, about halfway through,the book began to feel a bit creepy, especially in the depiction of the Verver family dynamics--and of Mr. Verver in particular.I know that Lizzie was hungry for a strong, male role model,and in her hero-worship of Mr. Verver, she was looking for ways to bask in the glow of his full attention. When Evie first disappeared, it was natural for Lizzie to cooperate with the police and to be at the Verver's house to give any help that she could.As the situation continued,it looked to me as if Mr. Verver was leaning on Lizzie..or perhaps courting her.I didn't really like her late night lawn chair conversations with him, and I didn't like Lizzie spending so much time with him, down in the basement, setting up for Dusty's substitute "prom." I would think that Lizzie's mother might have found this friendship to be somewhat troubling or inappropriate, but she just compliments her daughter on being so sensitive to their neighbors, All of it's a bit ironic.
The early conversations between Dusty and her father (especially the ones about boys and dating)also seemed inappropriate--more like a flirtatious exchange between peers(boy and girl)than an affectionately teasing father-daughter conversation. When you add in the fact that Mrs. Verver(who had supposedly once been sexy and attractive)was now a shadowy character, somewhat irrelevant to her husband and daughters,I think that it paints a picture of an off-kilter family.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By McGuffy Ann Morris on June 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Lizzie and Evie have been friends their entire lives. They share everything, from clothes to sports to thoughts and secrets. They have carved out places in sports, equaling the boys on that playing field.

Now, at 13, everything is changing. They watch Evie's 16 year old sister as she blossoms into a beautiful and feminine being, and her effect on the males in the neighborhood. The boys, other kids, adults, families, or perhaps it is their perception, their awareness that is changing.

Lizzie realizes that Evie is changing, as she herself is, too. Their discussions and secrets have taken on new tones, new topics. When Evie disappears suddenly, Lizzie still feels the connection and a responsibility to find her friend. Her bond with Evie's family gives her strength, but is also a source of mixed comfort and pain.

Lizzie has many revelations and grows up in unexpected ways in Evie's absence. She realizes things about Evie, herself, and the ways of the world. These things drive her to find Evie, but they also put an end to many things that she felt, believed, and thought she knew.

Megan Abbott has written a book that explores the frightening dark side of adolescence, regarding sexuality and what is the end of innocence. The truth is that when we lose our innocence, we lose our childhood.
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