Girls gone wild with Bath & Body Works

Oh, okay. I see. This is Megan Abbott’s jam. She likes to write sexy coming-of-age stories about smooth-legged teenaged girls who toss their tresses and emit berry-flavored scents from the surface of their lips and their pores. Girls who have a sexual power they are first learning to wield. Girls who catch the eye of inappropriately aged dudes, either purposefully or not.

In The End of Everything, Lizzie and Evie are next-door neighbors and besties. They are both dazzled by Evie’s older sister Dusty, the oft-stalked older sister who is so lovely and a fierce field hockey player. Life is good at the Verver’s house, where the girls sift through Dusty’s belongings and banter with Mr. Verver, the sort of flirty dad who graces ladies of all ages with his gaze. Things are a little unsettled at Lizzie’s house, where her dad has left and her mother is in the middle of a super-secret relationship with a doctor who still wears a wedding ring.

After school one day, Lizzie catches a ride with her mother to go dress shopping and Evie dismisses their offer of a ride. And then she doesn’t come home.

Mr. Verver tries to coax info from Lizzie and it works. She remembers cigarette butts crushed beneath a tree outside the Verver’s home and how Evie told her that someone was watching her. She also remembers an always-present maroon car. And when it’s revealed that the car belongs to the neighbor Mr. Shaw, Lizzie remembers things her friend has said about the man’s very obvious loneliness. He’s MIA, too. Lizzie spends Evie’s absence hanging out with Mr. Verver in a place that is closer to a crush than her search for a father figure. She also creeps around at night, trying to find clues to her friend’s whereabouts.

A whole load of complicated relationships and emotions bubble just below the surface as everyone tries to figure out what happened to Evie and whether she is still alive.

Earlier this year I read Abbott’s Dare Me, and I dug the way she wrote girls at this weird age demographic. All the politics and plotting and manipulation. All wrapped in Bath & Body Works. It was terrifying. Now I see that this is Abbott’s signature style, which kind of takes the sheen off of Dare Me. This story is more tricky with its relationship structures: A teenaged girl who allows an adult male quick glimpses, knowing that it makes him happy and sort of needing that adoration. Another teenaged girl craves her father’s attention in a way that has been called into question, and she’s in the midst of a jealous snit when another teenaged girl captures his attention. Whatta mess. Plot-wise and impact-wise, I preferred Dare Me.

Abbott’s great. She writes really loaded descriptions and she’s got serious plots running around in her head. But I think I’m over this scene. It just feels too close, thematically and word-wise, to Dare Me and I have a feeling there’s more where these came from.

At some point Christa should write something about herself. In the meantime, I will just say that she's one of the funniest writers on the planet. I would probably read her grocery lists, if she wrote them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *