Review: The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix
Wow there is A LOT happening in this book - and I gotta tell you right off the top, you have to go into it ready to just completely suspend your disbelief. And also probably brush up on your knowledge of the horror/slasher genre, or a lot of the funny and subversive things Hendrix does will go right over your head (as they did for me). If you can do both of those things, then this book is a ride.
I like books that turn famous horror tropes on their heads, and this book tackles the trope of 'the final girl' (as it says in the title), which is the name given to the last girl standing in a horror film - and then this book picks up several years in the future and asks the question of what happens to the final girl after the movie ends. How does she move past the most horrific thing that could ever happen to a human? How does she put her life back together? How does she ever feel safe again?
Well, according to the first-person POV narrator, the answer is: she doesn't.
The first thing you have to suspend your disbelief on is the naïveté of a lot of the main characters, including Lynette's (POV narrator) therapist; and the psychological torture that the entire LAPD is willing to perpetrate on the victim of a horrific crime (although that wasn't that surprising, maybe). There is one chapter where things start happening in a way that makes you really go "okay, none of this is realistic, I'm just gonna go with this now", and once you get over that hurdle, this book is a lot of fun: the characters consistently make terrible decision upon terrible decision, the slasher bits of the book are appropriately gory and incredibly tense (that final scene had me on the edge of my seat), and the central cast of final girls are fun to root for even though they are terrible people and are terrible to each other.
Some things that I wish Grady Hendrix had developed a bit more fully: the cast of secondary characters. Lynette is a really well developed character, probably because we're in her head the entire time, but the other four final girls (especially Heather) we just don't get to spend enough time with to discover enough of her motivations to understand why she behaves the way she does. And the pacing on the ending was a bit off - the climax happened too quickly after the reveal, when I think I would have liked to have some more time to process the implications of that reveal before it turned into the final scene (although the final scene was spectacularly well-written, and the tension of the reveal before it was well threaded throughout the action), and it was subversive, even though in a somewhat obvious way.
I think he also stuck a bit too closely to the movie inspirations for the multiple murders his final girls survived (hello Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is that you?) and it took him six chapters to stop mentioning 'final girls are tough/strong/independent/we never give up. We're final girls after all' on every page, but he did stop before it got too annoying to carry on, so that's all right I suppose.
Anyway - I'm not entirely sure if I'm recommending this book, because it's not a stand-out mystery. It is fun, but in my mind it's nothing memorable, and I don't think I'll either revisit it or even think about it much beyond this review. But if you want a quick, easy, fun, gory read that keeps you on the edge of your seat and that you can just race through without looking up, then this might be the one for you.
Just maybe don't read it when you're home alone.