I’ve always loved the way Grady Hendrix takes a humorous, campy premise and mixes it with actual horror so I was excited to pick up The Final Girl Support Group. This book is a love letter to slasher movies and especially the women, those final girls who manage to escape. This wasn’t the perfect book, and I especially found the social commentary a bit clunky at times, but it was a lot of fun to read, so I’d recommend it to people who love a good slasher horror.
A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.
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.
In horror movies, the survivor is nearly always a woman, a final girl, you could say. No one talks about what these final girls do after those tragic events. Lynette Tarkingson survived a massacre twenty-two years ago and, as part of her trauma treatment, has been meeting with five other girls who survived their own unthinkable events. The hope is that they can support each other to put their lives back together, with varying degrees of success. However, everything goes wrong when one of them is murdered. Now the final girls are being hunted.
This book was such a fun read. I sped through it; the fast pace and constant twists made me never want to put it down. If you like Grady Hendrix’s other works, or generally enjoy horror that’s slightly more quirky, I’d recommend this one. I loved that the characters in the book correlate to final girls from horror movies; it’s such a fun easter egg. If you love the slasher genre of horror, you should give this a go.
I also, unfortunately, have very mixed feelings about this book. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did, but a lot of the aspects didn’t work as well for me as I’d hoped.
The blurb and title lead you to believe that the final girls are going to work and fight together, but the majority of the book is spent with only Lynette. This isn’t necessarily a fault of the book itself, but I was surprised that it had been marketed in that way if it wasn’t going to deliver. I wanted more interaction between the final girls, especially more backstory and character development for people other than Lynette.
Grady Hendrix often tries to tie in social commentary in his books to varying degrees of success. With The Final Girl Support Group, the feminist messaging felt a little bit hollow at times. There are so many interesting things that could be said about misogyny within the slasher genre, and generally about women in horror. I appreciate that he tried to incorporate these themes, especially considering the majority of the cast were women. I also appreciate that there’s a lot of reference to the violence and manipulation women face at the hands of men who hold power over them.
At the same time, it was a little bit too clear cut. Every man is an evil manipulator, and every woman is a victim. I’m not trying to do a #NotAllMen moment here; my real focus is that no matter what these women do, what decisions they make, what horrible acts they commit, it’s all brushed away because there were men behind the scenes. I think you can have an analysis of misogyny without completely erasing the autonomy of women. It’s difficult to explain because the feminist aspects weren’t handled badly, and I respect what Hendrix was doing, but it didn’t quite work.
The social themes also didn’t quite work because of how other marginalised groups were represented. The only black character is killed immediately; she doesn’t get any page time at all. There’s a discussion in the book about how she had movies about her story, and she didn’t want to hire a black woman to play her because she knew that wouldn’t elicit sympathy. Again, I can see where Grady Hendrix was trying to go here, but it falls hollow in a book that also didn’t let the black character exist. Another part that sat badly with me was that the Bury Your Gays trope is included. One of the final girls is a lesbian, and her wife dies horribly. It’s one of the most drawn-out scenes in the book, noticeably in comparison to the other deaths. How can a book that’s trying to have a social commentary on misogyny fall into this incredibly well known homophobic trope? It didn’t seem to have a point to it, so it didn’t feel purposeful either. These are small moments in the larger story, but they add together to make the social commentary feel off.
I don’t mean for this to be a rant review because I honestly had a good time with this book, and I would recommend it to people who like of genre. Horror is rife with misogyny, and I’m glad Grady Hendrix is trying to discuss that, even if he doesn’t always get it right. I’m going to continue to read his work because I love the ideas he comes up with; they’re always so much fun. At the same time, I think sensitivity readers need to be hired if he wants to make his social commentary more poignant; the potential is there.
CW: violence, death, gore, murder, misogyny, terminal illness, cancer, homophobia, racism, drug use, panic attacks, paranoia, gaslighting, police brutality, confinement, rape mention, gun violence.
(Thanks to Netgalley and Titan Books for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review)
Grady Hendrix is the author of the novels Horrorstör, about a haunted IKEA, and My Best Friend’s Exorcism, which is like Beaches meets The Exorcist, only it’s set in the Eighties. He’s also the author of We Sold Our Souls, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, and the upcoming (July 13!) Final Girl Support Group!
He’s also the jerk behind the Stoker award-winning Paperbacks from Hell, a history of the 70’s and 80’s horror paperback boom, which contains more information about Nazi leprechauns, killer babies, and evil cats than you probably need.
And he’s the screenwriter behind Mohawk, which is probably the only horror movie about the War of 1812 and Satanic Panic.
You can listen to free, amazing, and did I mention free podcasts of his fiction on Pseudopod. He also does a podcast called Super Scary Haunted Homeschool.
If you’re not already sick of him, you can learn all his secrets at his website.
The Final Girl Support Group came out on the 13th of July 2021 so there’s never been a better time to grab a copy!