In Grady Hendrix’s utterly gripping new novel, The Final Girl Support Group, we join a therapy circle of five women who have survived mass murders years after the events that traumatized them and splashed them across the headlines. Our narrator, Lynnette, is the odd one out because she didn’t kill the person responsible—but that’s not to say that she doesn’t carry psychological scars as well as physical ones. By the time we meet the group, any healing is long in their rearview. They bicker and hurl insults at each other. It’s not an auspicious beginning for a conspiracy that will threaten all of their lives once again.
Lynnette—like the others in the group—has faced death twice. She’s lost two families to seriously violent and mentally ill men. Her response to her trauma has been to become extremely paranoid. Her apartment is a fortress. She uses elaborate evasive maneuvers to go anywhere, to shake anyone who might follow her. She is rigorous about her fitness routine so that she can run and fight. She’s so ready to see danger everywhere that even the other final girls think she’s a little crazy with her precautions. Those same precautions come in handy when someone starts attacking the final girls yet again.
After Lynnette’s apartment suddenly becomes unsafe, she puts her bug-out plans into action at the same time that she starts to ask everyone who will talk to her questions about who might be targeting them. All the people who attacked them in the past are either dead or in prison. Who’s left that wants them dead? What follows is one of the twistiest (but still plausible) series of action scenes and conspiracy that I’ve ever read. It’s funny that many of the members of the support group had movies made about their experiences because this book is also one of the most cinematic books I’ve ever read. I could see this book play out in my head as Lynnette dodged and ran and fought. There are several moments that are the closest things to a jump scare that literature can achieve outside of The Pop-up Book of Phobias.
The Final Girl Support Group is one of the tensest books I’ve ever read. Almost immediately after that unpleasant meeting of the group, the plot never slows down. The only breaks we get (if you can call them breaks) are snippets of criticism about horror movies based on what happened to Lynnette and the other members of the group and pieces of their testimonies after everything was over. The plot moves almost too fast—certainly too fast to linger too much over the deeper themes the book introduces. For example, there are references to and excerpts from speeches by another final girl who was able to turn earnings from a horror movie series (based on her experiences but made without her permission) into efforts to stop violence against women and to help girls and women heal. There are further brief mentions of how real violence is fictionalized in slasher flicks and horror movies for mass entertainment. What makes this kind of entertainment okay? Why are so many people so enamored of media coverage of horrific murders? The Final Girl Support Group races past these questions to get to the next chase or fight. I don’t really fault The Final Girl Support Girl for its speed. These questions and others are still with me; they’ll probably be food for thought for a while.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.