The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix is an unsatisfying book with a surprisingly decent ending. I picked it up as Good Reads listed it as readers’ favorite horror novel of 2021. I don’t read a ton of horror, though I am a Stephen King devotee. But this book did not work for me.
The Final Girl is a trope that refers to a final girl survivor who squares off with the killer at the end of a horror film. Think Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween. The Final Girl Support Group’s main character, Lynette, is the survivor of a horrific family massacre. She attends a support group for other final girls like herself. Soon it becomes apparent that one or more of the killers have returned to pick off the women one by one. We follow Lynette as she flees the killer, and then resolves to save the others and herself.
I don’t expect a ton from horror novels. Some characters to feel invested in, some scares, maybe an interesting point to be made about some dark aspect of life. But this book didn’t do it for me. The Final Girls, including Lynette, are incredibly grating. The violence is stomach-turning without any heft. Somehow the horror scenes are too much and not enough; they are gruesome but dealt with too quickly and in passing. What the Final Girls experience as survivors isn’t explored in any real depth; mostly there are descriptions of their coping mechanisms without any emotional roots. I can understand some horror readers not caring about strong characterizations, since it’s about the scares, but I find fully drawn characters much more satisfying. I’m sure the superficiality is a nod to the way exploitation horror flicks are filled with thinly drawn stereotypes (The Nerd, The Jock, The Slut, etc.), but the book loses something by focusing almost exclusively on actions versus interiority.
The support group is an interesting set up and I know there are clever ways to explore horror tropes. But this book is weak without substantive underpinnings. I concede the ending was well done; it even had some emotional weight. But it was too little too late. In the end I felt I had wasted my time on the most brittle of stories.