“The line between being too careful and not being careful enough is a line you only get to cross once” is a belief Lynnette Tarkington still holds true even 20 years after she survived a Christmas Eve massacre that left her a “Final Girl.” That’s “final girl” as in the last female standing at the end of a serial-killing spree in horror films, but for Lynnette this is no slasher flick… this is her reality.
In The Final Girls Support Group, Grady Hendrix explores the mindset of the now middle-aged Lynnette, whose been unable to live a normal life since her traumatic Yule Tide experience as a teenager. She sees danger around every corner and will go to extreme lengths to protect herself, including barricading herself in her booby-trapped apartment, where she can control her surroundings. Or taking different routes and modes of transportation hours out of her way each time she ventures outside, going so far as to ride the airport shuttle so that potential stalkers won’t be able to ascertain her routine.
All of this paranoia and precaution makes it difficult for Lynnette to let anyone new into her life. The only real social interactions she’s had in over a decade are with fellow massacre survivors and their therapist during their monthly covert “Final Girls” support group meetings. But when one of the women in the group misses a session, Lynnette fears they’re all in danger again… and she’s not wrong.
Hendrix bases his characters on those from popular slasher films, but names them for the actresses who played them and takes creative liberties with their backstories to great effect. For instance, Lynnette’s Christmas attack is clearly a take on Silent Night, Deadly Night, but there’s no mention of that specifically, although in the book a film franchise about her experience was created, dubbed Slay Bells. “The Camp Red Lake Killings” and its final girl Adrienne are a nod to Friday the 13th and its lead actress, Adrienne King, who actually narrates the audiobook version of The Final Girls Support Girl — so meta! There’s so much more like this throughout the book, while providing a “What ever happened to?” narrative.
Unfortunately, what’s happened to them over the years is not very good. While the author’s previous novels like My Best Friend’s Exorcism and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires had a lot of humor and lightheartedness infused throughout its devastating horror (I mean, the titles alone, c’mon!), Final Girls is a more serious offering. As can be expected, these women suffer from disorders like post-traumatic stress (PTSD), addiction, paranoia, denial, anger, and more. Therefore, integrating back into society, learning to trust again, and overcoming fear are still a struggle for them decades later. Also, their support group, which began as a refuge for commiseration and healing, has devolved into a source of contention, causing resentfulness and bickering. Worst of all, the traumatic experiences that once bonded these women could now be the reason they’re all being targeted once more.
Hendrix has a knack for taking everything we know and love about 80’s and 90’s pop culture and delivering it to us on a silver platter with each novel, and does so again masterfully with Final Girls. The idea of there being a therapeutic support group for the “final girl” horror trope is a genius one. Filled with suspense and drama, The Final Girls Support Group is a treasure trove of winks and nods to horror fans, while still managing to keep you guessing til the end.
In horror movies, the final girls are the ones left standing when the credits roll. They made it through the worst night of their lives…but what happens after?
Like his bestselling novel The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Grady Hendrix’s latest is a fast-paced, frightening, and wickedly humorous thriller. From chain saws to summer camp slayers, The Final Girl Support Group pays tribute to and slyly subverts our most popular horror films—movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream.
Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre. For more than a decade, she’s been meeting with five other final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, working to put their lives back together. Then one woman misses a meeting, and their worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to rip their lives apart again, piece by piece.
But the thing about final girls is that no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.
Book Dimensions: 6.37 x 1.16 x 9.28 inches; 352 pages