Hello all! This week’s review is going to be a bit different from my typical reviews – instead of love and romance, we’re talking about some slashers and horror. When people ask, “What do you like to read?”, I’m forced to answer with the very bizarre and worrying, “Oh, romance and horror primarily.” Very strange combination. But they are indeed my favorites, and Grady Hendrix is the master of the genre (and yes, I’m counting Stephen King!).
The Final Girl Support Group follows Lynette, one of six girls who survived a serial killer and is now hashing it out in a monthly therapy appointment. Finals girls fight back, but are left haunted by their experiences and all that comes after. Over the years, the group has begun to fall apart, but the death of one of their members starts in motion a clear attempt on all their lives. Lynette is determined to stop it.
I’m like a Grady Hendrix superfan, to be honest. I’ve read all the fiction he’s put out, and it’s my understanding that his academic study of the horror genre through the 80’s is what makes him so fantastic. This book is no different. Hendrix inspires fear through connection to his characters and their psyche, not through situations. It’s like the difference between seeing a psychological horror movie that leaves you reeling, and watching a slasher film with jump scares – for lack of a better example. Lynette isn’t always loveable, but she’s relatable. You understand and her and what motivates her, which is why this story frightens you to your core (additionally, an anxiety diagnosis may increase fear levels while reading).
One thing I absolutely have to drill into here is Hendrix’s understanding of women. It’s been a privilege of mine to discuss with my fabulous library coworkers what it is to tap into women’s fear, after we all read The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires last year (an absolute must read, if you haven’t). We’re pretty much all in agreement that Hendrix is either the most in-tune man in the world or his books are ghost written by women. And I say this because, horror movies, and really the whole genre (again, looking at you Stephen King) don’t focus on women other than as objects of violence and sexuality. Essentially, many modern horror tales create rape fantasies that romanticize the violence and don’t leave you thinking about women as people, or what comes after this moment on the screen. They are faceless, nameless, and abused by cinema and literature. Think Rob Zombie’s Halloween. While this is still blood-curdling and disturbing for female viewers, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth on the repercussions of this media in the real world, and the minds of its makers. And I think, particularly after reading his two most recent novels, Hendrix gets this, and is dissecting it for us all to watch. These books are terrifying because Hendrix dares to give the women a name and ask “What happens now? What happens after?”…and it’s even more horrifying than meaningless slaughter on a big screen.
Now, the reason this book is four stars and not five, was simply that I liked Southern Book Club’s Guide better. I’ve previously read Final Girls by Riley Sager, which is a completely unfair comparison here, but I think it turned me off to the idea of a Final Girl and the kind of story we’re telling in this book. Southern Book Club’s Guide lived in my head for months after, haunting me with the thought of “What if you knew there was danger, but no one would listen?”…it’s the kind of book where the ideas are part of you now, but it’s not always a happy thought. This one taps into that too, but not in a way I so connected with. I hope others find a different experience, as my issue may be one of personal preference.
The Final Girl Support Group hits shelves next week, July 13, and I highly implore you to grab a copy. I hope you find a new favorite author, and find yourself reading all the way back to My Best Friend’s Exorcism. You won’t be disappointed. A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.