The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix: Book Review

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The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix Book Cover
Title: The Final Girl Support Group
Content Warning: Graphic violence

Synopsis from GoodReads:

“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 is a real-life final girl who 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 actual 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.”

My Review:

I generally like reading horror. I get spooked, I have fun, I move on. Demons and/or possession are too scary for me and I’m not happy with way over the top, incredibly gory violence, but otherwise I’m good. Hendrix delivers on the “spooking me” front.

In the world of this book, six women survived their own real-life serial killer sprees. They were the final girls, the ones who defeated the killer and lived to fight another day. Each of them marketed the rights to their stories, which were turned into thinly-veiled slasher films. I can read horror but I can’t really watch it so I probably missed a lot of Easter eggs. I spotted nods to the Friday the 13th movies, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Each chapter has a title that is very reminiscent of movies in a horror franchise (“The Final Girl Support Group VIII: Night of the Final Girls”), which amused me.

But this novel picks up after the violence has ended. What does a final girl’s life look like after the credits roll? How do you experience that kind of trauma and build any kind of life afterward? They’re all in group therapy but otherwise they have lives that look wildly different–from the outside. Each has her own coping mechanism. Some have adapted better than others. They’re each scarred, mentally and/or physically. But they have each other’s backs in a tangle of complicated yet ultimately empowering female friendships.

“Men don’t have to pay attention the way we do. Men die because they make mistakes. Women? We die because we’re female.”

What I really like about Hendrix’s books is the depth he adds to the story. If you want to read for a good scare and nothing more, you’ll be happy. But if you’re paying attention, he also delivers commentary about some social issues. He has a lot to say in The Final Girl Support Group about the way our society views violence against women as entertainment. Many chapters ended with fake “news articles” about this very thing. They were really hard to read on my Kindle Paperwhite because they rendered as blurry images, but I downloaded the book to my Kindle app so I could enlarge them. I’d recommend getting this as a physical book or reading on a tablet for that very reason.

From one “news article:”

“The so-called slasher or Final Girl movie is a meat grinder with producers and studio chiefs on one end, turning the crank, and slavering male fans on the other end, lapping up their output of violent sexual fantasies….But the fantasies have become so vivid and mainstream that no one points out the stinking female corpse at the root of this poisonous tree…”

Hendrix also touches on the niche market of people who buy items from famous murders/murderers. Really, who does that? Who says, “Oh, I think I want to buy a lock of Charles Manson’s hair?” or “I’d like to buy the gun used to kill Trayvon Martin?” Some sick people, that’s who.

This isn’t my favorite of Hendrix’s work (My Best Friend’s Exorcism holds that spot–surprising, given my abhorrence of demons and possession), but it’s still an entertaining horror novel that also makes you think about violence against women in our society.

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