I review Final Girls by Riley Sager.
Many thanks to the author, publisher, & NetGalley for providing a review copy.
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
I know, I know, another book with “girls” in the title. But Final Girls actually works. It’s the term given to the last female character standing in a horror film. Even though these female characters have obviously been through hell and back, they’re still referred to as girls. But what’s worse is that this term is applied to real women who go through hell and come out the other side. Misogyny at it’s finest.
Quincy (sorry, horrible name) is a Final Girl, as the lone survivor of a massacre at Pine Cottage, a cabin in the woods, when she was nineteen. It’s the typical slasher storyline – a bunch of teenagers are drinking in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, their phones are all left in the car, there’s sex and booze and a weird stranger that turns up and gets invited to stay, to join in the fun. And the birthday girl, Janelle, is your typical slasher movie victim. Despite any descriptions, I envisioned her as a blonde cheerleader, curvy, excitable, experienced. She encourages Quincy to sleep with Craig, and when Quincy changes her mind (hello almost rape-not-rape scene, where Quincy says stop and Craig says come on, we agreed, let’s do this), Janelle fucks him instead. Quincy sees them, her feelings are hurt, but does she turn to murder? Mystery, mystery. It really couldn’t be more predictable.
This review sounds negative, but actually, Final Girls was extremely enjoyable. Despite – or, perhaps, because of – the predictability, you’re lulled into a false sense of security. Come on, you think, as you read with bated breath. It’s got to be X, or Y. You can’t fool me, Sager! But actually, Sager can, and did, fool me. The ending took me by surprise, and the final 30-ish% was utterly engrossing.
Quincy is your typical unreliable narrator, doped up on Xanax and hiding away from her memories of Pine Cottage. She’s not a Final Girl, she says, her mother says, her boyfriend says. She’s moved past it. She’s bigger than that, stronger. But when she hears of Lisa’s suicide, and Sam shows up on her doorstep, it becomes clear that Quincy is barely holding on.
Just an odd side note: Anitrophylin is mentioned a few times as an antidepressant that is also used as a sleep aid. After a quick Google, it became clear that anitrophylin doesn’t exist. Perhaps the author meant amitriptyline? Because I’m on amitriptyline for fibromyalgia, & I can confirm that it is quite capable of knocking someone out. I’m not sure if the author meant to make a name up, or if they just couldn’t remember amitriptyline, but there it is. Anyway.
Final Girls is thrilling. It’s one of those engrossing guilty pleasures, like those slasher films that still make you jump, even though they’re crap. But Final Girls isn’t crap. It’s full of twists and thrills that will mess you up, and keep you hooked. Apparently it won’t be released until July, so, if you want to read it, sucks to be you.