Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls by Riley Sager book cover

Genre: Thriller

A sinister thriller, full of twists and turns. 

Quincy, Lisa and Samantha have never met, but they share a terrible history: they’re all Final Girls. In their late teens, each was the sole survivor of a horrific massacre worthy of a Wes Craven film.

A decade after Quincy, youngest of the three, escaped from the cabin where she saw her best friends brutally murdered, she’s finally getting her life together. She’s got a great boyfriend (who seems on the verge of proposing), an enviable New York apartment and a lucrative baking blog. But then she receives a cryptic email from Lisa and the next day learns that Lisa killed herself just hours after she sent the email. Or so it would appear.

The Final Girls are once again headline news. And then Samantha turns up unannounced at Quincy’s apartment, seemingly intent on making her relive the past. While Quincy knows the man who killed her friends is dead, there’s a lot she doesn’t remember about that fateful night, and now she’s not sure who she can trust, including herself. But as she and Sam get to know each other and new details emerge about Lisa’s death, one thing becomes clear: the horror’s not over yet.

Final Girls (Ebury Press, Jul. 2017) is a sinister thriller, full of twists and turns.

I wanted to read Final Girls because I’m a scream queen to my core. Most Friday nights in high school you could find me in the horror aisle of my local Movieland (yup, I’m old) or else at the movies watching the latest teen slasher. And while I enjoyed the thrills and the fear factor, what I really loved about these films were the Final Girls—those average teenagers-turned-badasses who alone among their friends were cunning enough to outsmart the killer and survive to fight another sequel. Lorie Strode. Alice Hardy. Nancy Thompson. Buffy Summers. Julie James. Sidney Prescott. These girls were my heroes. (If you read up on the Final Girl, she’s a somewhat problematic figure, especially pre-Scream when she was expected to remain pure and virginal, but as a kid, I just saw a girl fighting monsters and winning, and that was really cool.)

So when I saw Final Girls pop up on NetGalley, I was all, ‘Hell YES, nostalgia!!’ Then I made a big bucket of popcorn and settled down to read.

It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. First, Final Girls is an adult thriller, not a teen slasher. The characters are all late twenties+. Which isn’t a problem, except that the cover for the Ebury Press edition with its hot pink border and girl running through the woods looks very YA. Also, given the title, I thought Sager would play to the fans, kind of like the Netflix Scream reboot (which I binge-watched and loved), but Final Girls is firmly in the ‘thriller’ rather than the ‘slasher’ camp, which was disappointing for me (and maybe a marketing fail), but not necessarily a criticism.

More problematic, is that the story takes aaaaagggggeeeesss to get going. It seemed like the first half of the book was mostly Quincy and Sam baking and talking, and the dialogue was flabby in places, not really doing much to move the plot along. I kept thinking, ‘when are they going to get out of the kitchen and start acting like the Final Girls they are?’ Sager does include a few intriguing scenes that add a little suspense and hint at what’s to come, but for me, they came between way too many repetitive and unnecessary conversations.

The second half is a different story. Once the action gets going, it’s full steam ahead. And there are a few unexpected twists hidden along the way, too. I still would have liked a little more blood and gore, which makes me sound like a horrible person, but Final Girls are a trope from the slasher genre, so I feel it’s a legit. criticism. Also, much of the action and violence occurs as flashbacks, with the reader already knowing who survives and who doesn’t, which takes some of the fun and suspense out of it.

Overall, I had mixed feelings about Final Girls. I’d give the first half two-and-a-half stars and the second half a solid four. While I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns towards the end and the nods towards the slasher genre, it ultimately wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. I really wanted a book that my teenage self would’ve fangirled over, and this wasn’t it.

Three stars

See Final Girls on Goodreads and pre-order through Booktopia or Book Depository.

Thank you to Ebury Press for providing a copy of Final Girls in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks also to Grammarly for picking up six critical issues and six advanced issues in my draft of this review. If, like me, you have trouble with typos, do give Grammarly a go!

—Margot XO 

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