The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

“Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre. 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, working to put their lives back together. Then one woman misses a meeting, and their worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to rip their lives apart again, piece by piece. But the thing about final girls is that no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up” — Amazon summary.

As a lover of the slasher films that got me interested in horror movies, I really enjoyed this book! The story being told by one of the final girls in the support group, we get a deeper look into what makes a final girl. The victims are the focal points, whereas in the movies we are usually only given a broader view of the events – a lot of the time the focus being mainly on the killer. Classic slashers are given shoutouts in the book as the different final girls’ backstories – such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Scream – just with different character names and some tweaking of motives, but each homage is clear as crystal. Scream is the franchise that got me into horror movies, and I think it does the same thing this book does. Scream focused more on the victims than on the killer. In a lot of horror movies, the star is the killer. But in Scream, the star is Sidney. The star is the final girl. This is what we get in this book as well.

By having a final girl as our narrator, we are shown how each woman copes differently with the trauma that comes after surviving such a harrowing experience. We are also shown the negative publicity that comes with that survival. Immediately, reporters hungry for a story hound you, not giving you a moments rest. Conspiracists blame you for what happened (I’ll reference Scream again here because the newest installment, Scream 6, touches on this as well). There are people who sympathize more with the killer, believing they deserved better than what they got, whether that was being killed in self-defense or thrown in jail. This isn’t just a plot device in a movie. Look back on our grisly history and you’ll find support groups and fangirls for MANY serial killers of the past. We may have become more desensitized recently because of the amount of horror movies available to us, but that morbid fascination has always been prevalent in our societies. In this book, the story is filtered through the voice of a survivor. Therefore, we get more sympathy for every victim. We get moral questioning of killing to protect yourself. We get the internal struggle of desperately wanting to lay down and rest but continuing on despite all the pain and exhaustion because you want to SURVIVE. We get philosophical questioning of why this happens. The question is put forth: WHAT FOR? What is the point of so much anger and pain and loss? Why do some people desire it?

That question may never be answered, may be impossible to ever answer. The question is somewhat dismissed by our narrator to instead drive home the fact that no matter the WHY, this sort of violence does happen and the world keeps moving. And you have to move along with it. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself asking that WHAT FOR question about your own life. Because if your life revolves solely around surviving, you’ll never be truly living.

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