When it comes to the horror genre, I generally like to stick with books that are on the spooky, more atmospheric end of the horror spectrum. But every once in a while, I do enjoy reading things that are on the scarier side.
One of the scary books I decided to read for the very first time this month was The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix.
“final girl (n.) — the last and sole survivor of a horror movie”The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix
The Final Girl Support Group tells the story of Lynnette Tarkington, who was the sole survivor of a bloody massacre when she was a teenager.
Now 38 years old, Lynnette’s daily focus is on keeping herself from being forced back into the role of a victim; a goal which has affected her entire way of life. She’s learned to shoot a gun, keeps her hair short, only leaves her apartment when she has to, and stays hyper-vigilant when she does.
For the past sixteen years, Lynnette has been seeing a therapist and participating in a support group comprised of five other “final girls.” All of them have been through terrifying experiences, and they’ve been forced to deal with the press, the movie franchises that spawned because of their stories, and no small amount of unwanted fame.
After one of the women from the group is found murdered, Lynnette is terrified that it’s just the beginning, and it’s not long before her fears are confirmed.
To be honest, I had kind of mixed feelings about this particular book.
The Final Girl Support Group is a dark and somewhat intense read, which includes a lot of references to slasher films from the late 1970s through the 1990s. Personally, I’m not a fan of these types of movies. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my preferred brand of horror is more on the atmospheric side, and that applies to the movies I watch as well as to the books I read. I’ve watched very few slasher movies (A Nightmare on Elm Street is pretty much it), so even though I did recognize Hendrix’s references to several popular franchises, I have no doubt that there were quite a few that went over my head entirely.
Despite this, I thought the concept of the book was very interesting, and appreciated the fact that I did not see the twists coming. The narrative pacing and complicated characters also made it really difficult for me to put the book down.
That being said, it only took me a couple of chapters to realize that this was one book I wasn’t going to be able to read right before bed. As a result, I made a point of reading the vast majority (about 95%) of The Final Girl Support Group in a single day…during daylight hours…with all of the lights on. While it’s not the scariest story I’ve ever read, it does have some genuinely scary (and occasionally disturbing) moments.
The Final Girl Support Group does include a number of elements which may cause emotional distress for readers, including: references to sexual abuse, torture, and animal cruelty; panic attacks and post traumatic stress; suicidal thoughts; references to school shootings; and a significant amount of graphic violence. The book also includes a character who is dying of cancer in hospice, which I found particularly hard to take.
While I did have a hard time putting The Final Girl Support Group down, this is one novel that I highly doubt I’ll choose to read again in the future. The novel seems to have been written for an audience that enjoys a different type of horror than me, and that’s fine. But it also really struck me as a single-read kind of book, because once you’ve reached the twist, you’ll never be able to recreate the same sense of suspense and surprise on a second read-through.
Ultimately, I think The Final Girl Support Group is a really well-written book that will likely appeal to fans of both Grady Hendrix and the slasher sub-genre alike. If you’re a fan of movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Scream, then this book might be of interest to you. But if slasher films aren’t your thing, then I’d give this particular book a miss.
Happy scary reading!