Book Review: ‘Final Girls’ by Riley Sager
I am going out on a limb here to say that visitors to this site are familiar with a common slasher movie scenario. A blade-wielding madman attacks a group of teens at a remote cabin or a sorority house or somewhere else of that ilk. He leaves a trail of bodies in his wake, but usually one woman finds a way to escape the madness, a Final Girl. Have you ever wondered what their lives are like when the credits roll on the film? Do they suffer from mental and emotional scars from what they endured? This is an intriguing topic, Riley Sager delves into with his novel Final Girls. Years ago as a college student, Quincy and her friends take an excursion to a remote cabin, but the night ends in a bloodbath when a mental patient from the nearby hospital shows up. In the years which followed Quincy has tried to live a normal life with the help of medication, but the trauma lingers. Quincy is dubbed by the media a member of the “Final Girls” along with; Sam who survived an attack at her workplace by the masked nutjob and has since gone into hiding; and unofficial leader Lisa, a child psychologist who’s sorority house was attacked by a psycho years before. When Lisa is discovered dead, Sam crawls out of hiding and appears at Quincy’s doorstep. Trying to forge a bond with her fellow survivor in the wake of the tragedy, Quincy allows Sam to stay with her and fiancée Jeff. To show gratitude, Sam begins Quincy down a path of darkness slowly but surely trying to crack away at the life she has built for herself. Lies are discovered and mysteries unravel as the reader inevitably finds it difficult to put the book down.
Author Riley Sager has taken an interesting look at horror that is often ignored with Final Girls and the result is absolutely thrilling. The characters he writes are forever traumatized by their experiences. The way they interact with others and internalize their struggles feel very real and often unexpected. His protagonist, Quincy is instantly endearing to readers as a character who is trying very hard to move past a horrible experience to forge a normal life. But the horrors she went through still linger covered up by a combination of Xanax and grape soda. Ultimately as the plot unfolds we see that she has to confront what happened at that cabin even though it is painful and heartbreaking. Acting as the angel and devil on her shoulders are the police officer, Coop, who saved her life from the killer and Sam who is your standard punk rock bad girl, but there is definitely more going on to her game. Quincy is pushed and pulled in multiple different directions by those in her life as she tries to discover the truth about Sam as well as uncover the painful repressed memories of the events which led her to be a Final Girl.
Horror fans need not worry as Final Girls does contain plenty of blood-soaked craziness within it’s pages. But it is the suspense which drives this book as short chapters and shifting timelines disorient the readers as they fall into the madness of this book. And I mean that in the best possible way, as each revelation and twist drives the reader to keep turning the pages. Despite everything going on, and a killer plot twist of a climax, Sager somehow manages to wrap everything up nicely by books end. His blending of a slasher horror story and study of a character dealing with PTSD is near perfect and truly worth a read.