Book Review: ‘Final Girls’ by Riley Sager

In the craziness of Christmas, the inevitable work catch up the New Year brings, and a move in the snow at the end of February, I have FINALLY had a chance to start catching up on some of my reading! Yay! I chose to start with one that I thought would be a page turner, and I was not disappointed.

As evidenced by my move in the snow, it’s unfortunately not summer (or even spring) yet, because Canada, but this one is definitely a beach read.

Final Girls by Riley Sager is the latest in a string of female-driven thrillers with unreliable narrators. What makes this one interesting is that, unlike recent blockbusters like The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, or some of my older favourites like Rebecca or The Moth Diaries, this one is not written by a woman. Interestingly enough, the author chose to use a gender neutral pseudonym, probably assuming that a female audience might be reluctant to pick up a book about a woman’s psychological struggle written by a man. Unfortunately, this is a perception that exists on both sides, as evidenced by female authors who have also published under male pseudonyms to be taken seriously. While there can be mixed results to men writing women, I am here to tell you that we should not forget that there are some great examples of men writing women from I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb to Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon, and now you can now add Riley Sager to your list.

Quincy Carpenter is a woman still struggling after narrowly escaping a killer ten years earlier. In the aftermath of being the sole survivor of a brutal attach that left her group of friends dead, she became dubbed by the media a final girl. If you are reading this blog as a horror lover, you are already well acquainted with the final girl – the final survivor in a slasher movie.

What Final Girls provides horror lovers with is something that is not seen as often. While this is not a scary novel, more of a mystery or psychological thriller, it provides a glimpse at the aftermath of life for a final girl trying her hardest to move on with her life and still struggling to do so over a decade later.

The Pine Cottage flashbacks are where horror fans will find their bread and butter as a night at a cabin in the woods unfolds into a bloodbath. The author is clearly a horror fan and there is no shortage of the tropes we know and love in each of the final girls back stories.

When Quincy is stunned by the news of the death of a fellow final girl, she and another woman (Samantha Bond) meet to bond over their experiences and to hash out their feelings about the recent death. What follows is a fast paced but fairly predictable thriller as we are thrown into the ensuing media frenzy with Quincy and Sam, interspersed with Quinn’s flashbacks to the night that she became a final girl. A night that she, somewhat conveniently, can’t remember at all.

Unfortunately, the predictability of this book prevents it from elevating beyond a beach read. It is excellently written, has a flawed but likable and relatable heroine (my biggest peeve about The Girl on the Train), and moves along lightning fast – I read it in one sitting in one sleepless night. It is highly enjoyable, and there are some beautifully unsettling moments in Quincy’s flashbacks to her night of terror, but nothing about it truly shocked me or left me contemplating long after the lights went out. If you are looking for a fantastic, fast paced read for a vacation night, this one is the way to go!

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