Published by Dutton on July 11, 2017
Purchase From: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or The Book Depository
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet. Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past. That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
Taking its cues from a slasher movie where only one person walks out alive at the end (think Halloween, Scream etc), Riley Sager takes us into the life of Quincy Carpenter, one of three girls dubbed a Final Girl by the press, the lone survivor of a horrific massacre while celebrating her best friend’s birthday at a cabin in the woods. Is there really any need to mention that there’s a mental hospital on the other side of the woods? I mean, come on – of course there is!
Quincy is living a normal life. She runs a baking blog. She lives in a nice place in New York City. She’s got a cute and loving fiance. It’s obvious her life is carefully constructed, even if a good chunk of it is plastered over with Xanax, wine and what sounds like some pretty terrible sex.
Then, one of the other two Final Girls turns up dead and the other lands, uninvited, on Quincy’s doorstep, throwing that carefully ordered life into disarray.
That Final Girl, Samantha Boyd, wants to help. Or does she? She throws Quincy into situations she would never have imagined, forcing her to remember the night in the cabin that she had blacked out for years. It comes in fits and phases, but it comes, and it ends as dramatically as it starts. Mostly.
I found it slow and clunky to start, but the interactions between our main characters are pretty intense, and the intensity grows the more influence and pressure Samantha exerts. She strips away some of that foundation and reveals the problematic Quincy we knew was there. I like that. I like flawed characters, I like them unlikeable and I like not really knowing who exactly to root for. In this, I wasn’t disappointed.
Riley Sager (in his first foray under this particular pseudonym), makes good use of some pretty generic horror movie tropes and takes us through a few masterful misdirections that keep you guessing right to the end. Thinking I’d figured it out, I was fairly surprised at the big reveal. At the same time, I was utterly disappointed by the fact that it devolved into the typical mansplained murdery power trip reminiscent of so many other books.
Despite the ending, Final Girls is a gripping read and I would recommend it as a good addition to the genre. But it’s certainly not the next Gone Girl. In fact, can we just stop saying anything is the next anything now, please?