Please note that the review shall mention suicide a couple of time, so read with discretion.
Final Girls by Riley Sager is a mystery suspense thriller about a women named Quincy Carpenter who was the sole survivor in a terrible slaughter that took place when she was in college. In that one moment of her life, she became marked by the media as belonging to a group that no one ever wants to identify with: the Final Girls, or sole survivors of similar mass murder events. All three girls in the club have made some sort of peace with happened to them and are now trying to live out their lives as peacefully as they can. Then one evening, the original Final Girl is found dead in her bathtub. The cause of death is presumed to be suicide. Shortly afterwards, the second Final Girl shows up at Quincy’s door, causing her life to tornado into chaos while threatening to bring all that Quincy has locked away right back to the surface.
After reading and falling in love with Sager’s The Last Time I Lied, and having recently received his latest, Lock Every Door in my Book of the Month box, I knew it was time to read the author’s first novel under the Sager name. Final Girls was a let-down in many ways, and I’m so happy that it wasn’t my first experience reading this guy’s stuff. I probably wouldn’t have picked up his other works afterwards. The most interesting part of the book are the varying psychological impacts of undergoing such an incredibly disturbing trauma, especially the different ways it can affect a single individual. Aside from that, however, most of the book was painfully boring and a slog to muster through.
Quincy is unique in the group of Final Girls as she’s the only one who can’t recall any details from the night that all of her friends were slaughtered. All she remembers is being rescued by one specific individual. Since that evening, she has worked diligently to get her life back on track and is a semi-successful baking blogger in the present time. She’s engaged and has a rather boring but seemingly perfect life going for her. When Lisa—the first Final Girl—is found dead, it creates this crack in Quincy’s current existence, which allows the trauma and emotions and memories from what happened in her youth to start trickling in. This is then further exasperated by Sam’s—the second Final Girl—spontaneous appearance into Quincy’s life. Things start to unravel from there.
Honestly, I loved reading about Quincy’s surroundings getting messed-up because it at least added a tiny bit of excitement to the narrative. Yet, everything that happens after Sam’s arrival and onwards until the last one-third to one-fourth of the novel was so fucking slow! I mean, it was agonisingly and unnecessarily paced. If the book went through some severe editing and chopping, then I believe that it would have been far more suspenseful and riveting. However, due to the plodding evolution of Sam’s and Quincy’s relationship, plus the myriad ways it influenced the relationships around Quincy, made me feel unbearably lackadaisical about everything. Given how well-balanced The Last Time I Lied was, my surprise for the craftsmanship of this story was stronger than most of the disturbing crap that occurs in Final Girls.
Quincy has the groundwork to be a rather compelling character. Her brain is so psychologically fucked-up thanks to the attitudes she received upon being rescued—such as massive amounts of suspicion and accusations—that went hand-in-hand with the tragedy. Toss in a dysfunctional relationship with her mother, a repressed romantic interest in her saviour, and this envy/caution that she feels for Sam, it would have been great to pick her apart. However, beyond those minute elements, the story lacked significant cohesiveness to make all of those facets flow complementarily. It’s like making beef stew with all of the right vegetables and the perfect cut of meat but completely forgetting to add any sort of seasoning to it.
Upon reaching the last section, where she begins to remember the details of the mass murder, it was the first time where I actually couldn’t put the book down and didn’t feel a need to step away to go do something more fun. I was enthralled by this sudden increase in suspense and finally felt the “thrilling” part of this thriller narrative. That is a sad feeling when you’re reading a psychological thriller.
Apart from the pacing and the excessively bland storytelling, I didn’t care for the big reveal at the end. In many ways, it was ridiculously convenient. Or, you could even say it was contrived for the sake of being so; something to give the plot a bit more bite. That reveal was so typical and tropey that I nearly threw the book across the room.
All in all, I don’t particularly recommend Final Girls as it’s not the greatest thriller out there, by far. Nonetheless, if you have read Riley’s books before and are curious about this one, go into it cautiously without too high of an expectation. If you’ve never read anything by Riley Sager, then for sure do not start with Final Girls, as it can be rather off-putting towards his other works.
2 white dresses outta 5!
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