Title: Final Girls
Author: Riley Sager
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.
Hmm, what to say about this book. I never really liked it, even at its best parts, but I was interested from almost start to finish. Even when I hated elements of it, I wanted to know what had happened and what was going to happen next.
Protagonist Quincy is a final girl, but she’s Not Like Those Girls (in this case, someone who dwells on the horrible things that have happened to her and that only she managed to survive). I think we’re meant to disagree with her boyfriend, who’s proud of the fact that she’s moved on and is over what’s happened to her, but it’s never totally called out, so it didn’t work for me. And, as the book went on, I liked her even less, because I simply didn’t care. There were some people who obviously liked her, but I didn’t get the appeal.
Then something happened roughly halfway through – it’s a bit of a spoiler, though, so WARNING – MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD: Quincy has increasing anger problems as she and fellow final girl Samantha Boyd delve into her past, and it just made me like her less and less. Then, one late night in Central Park, she and Samantha are purposely seeking out dangerous men who think they’re victims, but who they can then attack instead. There’s a druggie who just wants money, and Quincy decides that he’s her Big Bad Man. Well, he wasn’t, and he was perfectly content to leave her when she didn’t want to give him money and she acted uncomfortable, but she started to attack him and act like he was attacking her. He then used that as an excuse to beat him so viciously that she thought he was dead, and he was ultimately in a coma.
Then we finally find out who the killer is at the end. The book sets Quincy up as an increasingly violent person, so we’re meant to wonder if she was really the killer (don’t worry, not spoiling that). I was pretty unimpressed with the ultimate reveal – it wasn’t the worst suspect, but it wasn’t great. And, even worse, Quincy is held up on a pedestal by multiple people in a way that I just didn’t understand. There was also some of that good ol’ villain sexism – ie, any women who like sex, have sex, or try to use sex to stay alive, are horrible and disgusting woman, which just makes Quincy even better.
I really hated the way Quincy didn’t really have to deal with any consequences at the end. After everything that happened, including that spoiler up there, she had almost no consequences. If I thought she was a good person, even a semi-decent person, I might be okay with it a little, but I started to hate her towards the end, mainly because she didn’t seem like an intentional unlikeable protagonist, but simply a protagonist you’re supposed to like but ends up being a horrible person.
So, a lot of complaining, obviously, and yet I was interested from beginning to end. For that reason, and that reason alone, I’m curious about Riley Sager’s second book (by the way, apparently a pen name for a male author? If so, I could tell a little bit, from the female perspective, but maybe I just thought that because I went into it knowing it was a man writing a woman), and I’ll probably check it out.