Again, I’m a sucker for a good concept and the central hook for The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix was one that I absolutely knew I had to know more about.
Thank you so much to Titan Books for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
This review was first posted on The Nerd Daily.
In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?
Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.
But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.
Publication Date: 13th July
TW: death, murder, gore
The Final Girl Support Group is a white-knuckle ride, with plenty of gory thrills in store, but also a complex and fascinating examination of the titular trope and its misogynistic undertones.
Hendrix wastes very little time getting straight into it, setting the tone for the book right from the off. Instantly, there’s this mix of familiar horror references and the real life victims behind these horrific situations (at least within the universe of the book). The horror film references are so fun to see and really highlight the cultural touchstones, in order to ensure that the central conversation has a much larger impact.This book is defined by its examination of and almost conversation with the Final Girl trope. There’s this tension between the final girls’ control of their own narrative and the exploitation of their trauma through these adaptations. Their monsters become cult-classic heroes and this adds an uneasy sense, interrogating societal fascination with these horror villains. By extent, this also parallels how society can be obsessed with real-life monsters, the perpetrators of horrific acts of violence and destruction. Far too often, media focus is on the perpetrators, rather than calling for justice and reminding audiences of those affected by their actions.
The entire concept of this book is just fascinating. It asks what happens to the Final Girl of trope fame once her monster is captured or killed. After the final credits, what happens to these girls who have survived hell on earth? Hendrix utilises this concept so, so well. This was a relentlessly tense and thought-provoking take on the Final Girl trope, using a multi-media format to engage in a conversation with the trope and its misogynistic undertones. It taps into questioning depictions of violence against women on screen and how they are often dehumanised and sexualised. Having these films be based on real life experiences brings the aspects of the male gaze firmly into the spotlight, criticising a societal obsession with violence against women being sexualised and glamourised. It makes for truly thought-provoking reading and opens the door for a much needed conversation within the horror genre.
Hendrix gives these women far more nuance and agency than their on-screen counterparts may get and acknowledges the long-term effects their trauma would have on them. Their reactions differ, especially as the years go by. This also allowed for different ways they all controlled their own narrative, with differing survival techniques employed for them to keep going and keep living. The different characters are allowed so much complexity and every chapter unveils new layers to them. Their relationships and individual coping mechanisms are so fraught and different, highlighting how each of them chooses to survive in this world. Hendrix’s clever use of multi-media elements also means that you gradually discover the details of each of their stories, particularly their Final Girl experiences. This allows them to not just be defined by what happened to them, though it does form a significant aspect of their character.
Of course, the thriller and slasher element of the book also creeps in. It’s been a while since I read a straight up slasher novel, but this was pretty fantastic. Instantly, I knew I was in for a wild ride and Hendrix never let up. The monsters of their past appear to be re-emerging and chasing them down one, by one. Hendrix creates a truly heart-stopping and pulse-pounding atmosphere, thick with tension and suspense. This book is completely unrelenting, with the pace driving forwards and the stakes rising higher and higher. The twists and turns in store are genuinely shocking and you’re often left unsure as to who you can trust or what the truth is.
The Final Girl Support Group asks what happens after the final credits roll in an intriguing, blood-soaked and tense examination of the trope, with a twisty mystery at its core that will keep you on your toes.