Take the meta-horror-commentary of Scream and dial it up to eleven; there at the top of the stairs, silhouetted in moonlight and brandishing a rusty machete, you will find The Last Final Girl. Stephen Graham Jones is leaning hard into the tropes of teen slasher movies, and if you aren’t in on the joke it will fly over your freshly-severed-by-garage-door-head.
The story is presented almost as a film treatment; close ups, pans, POVS, and audience responses are all written in and used with cheeky abandon. There are mortally wounded blondes, snarky teens in video stores, rubber Halloween masks, and murderous estranged fathers a plenty. There’s a homecoming dance, curiously well-informed journalist, and a bunch of younger kids hanging around down by the river. There’s a girl who writes all of her papers about horror movie tropes. There’s a girl who was last week’s final girl, and now she is determined to earn her place of gory glory again.
I could go blue in the face (much like many of the slashed teens within) trying to catalog all of the references, call-backs, and sly winks to teen movies splattered throughout this book, but I want you to separate from the group, lose your cellphone, go up the stairs while the audience yells “DON’T GO UP THERE”, offer your secrets to the wrong teen queen, and find them yourself. If you are a fan of Halloween, Scream, Friday the 13th, Saw, Alien, and their many sequels, spin-offs, and rip-offs, then this murderous week at Highschool, USA is the book for you.