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 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 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.
Since the release of The Final Girl Support Group, I’ve come to realise that Grady Hendrix is the horror equivalent of Marmite. Horror readers either love his work or they, well, don’t (maybe Marmite is the wrong analogy as I haven’t actually seen anyone claim to hate his work). Someone in a horror fiction Facebook group that I’m a member of stated that they didn’t find his work overly scary. While novels like The Final Girl Support Group and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires didn’t make my blood run cold, I still found them scary. What I found scary about The Final Girl Support Group was the fact that there’s no supernatural entity pursuing Lynnette and her fellow survivors. The horror comes in the form of people, be they the men who attempt to live out their dark, twisted fantasies by hurting women or the people who idolise these men.
For me, Grady Hendrix’s brand of horror is unique in that it doesn’t serve to simply scare readers. The Final Girl Support Group isn’t just a horror novel; it’s also a commentary on modern society’s grisly obsession with killers. Admittedly, I’m something of a true crime aficionado, but when I’m listening to a podcast or watching a documentary, I never forget the people at the heart of these stories, which are the victims. This isn’t the case with some people interested in true crime, though. I’ve genuinely heard people talking about how hot killers like Ted Bundy and Richard Ramirez were, as though their allegedly pleasing visages cancel out their heinous crimes. This same warped obsession can be found in The Final Girl Support Group. Imagine being someone who survived a massacre or a serial killer and not only having to try and live with the trauma of such an ordeal, but having to live with the knowledge that there are people who idolise your attacker. The fact that people like that actually exist is scarier than any tale about vampires or ghosts.
From a story standpoint, The Final Girl Support Group is one hell of a rollercoaster ride. It’s fast-paced and its twists and turns are guaranteed to keep a reader on their toes.
Are you a Grady Hendrix fan? Which of his books is your favourite? Let me know in the comments!