The Final Girl Support Group is a horror novel written by Grady Hendrix (My Best Friend’s Exorcism, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires) following the life of Lynette Tarkington, one of the women who make up the Final Girls Support Group. Final Girls are women who’ve survived gruesome massacres, and the ones in Hendrix’s book mirror fictional Final Girls from franchises like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween. Carol J. Clover coined the term ‘final girl’ in her 1992 book, Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film to reference the female character who is the sole survivor of a group of young people hunted by a masked killer.
I’ve made no secret about my love of the slasher genre and the Final Girl trope; it’s one of my favorite elements of horror to write about. I was very excited to read this book by Hendrix, and I’ve heard great things about some of his other novels. Other the years, Hendrix has devoted himself to analyzing and subverting horror tropes like Final Girls, exorcisms, and vampires. It sounded like my type of thing, so I was very excited when I checked this book out from the library.
There’s a lot to enjoy with The Final Girl Support Group, and I appreciate Hendrix’s attempts to deconstruct and satire the trope. I also liked the universe Hendrix created. The rules of his universe are simple; women who have survived massacres become Final Girls. They often receive book and movie deals about their lives and survival. They also deal with a second massacre, a sequel of sorts. I also liked the mystery of the identity of the person targeting final girls. There’s a couple of red-herrings and misdirects sprinkled throughout the book, and I enjoyed the final few pages of the The Final Girl Support Group and how Hendrix tied everything together.
However, the book was strangely convoluted with several unlikable characters and a tendency to fall into the cliches the book was trying to satire in the first place. The Final Girls Support Group closely follows Lynette as she tries to find out who is killing and targeting the other final girls in her support group. These women, guided by Dr. Carol, met over the last 16 years as they rebuild their lives and cope with the traumas of surviving horrific massacres.
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My biggest gripe with the book is the killing of the one Black final girl, Adrianne, the first character to die. We are almost in the year 2023 and people are STILL utilizing the racist tropes of horror movies of the 1970s and 80s where the Black character always dies first. Considering this book is trying to subvert tropes, I was expecting a twist with Adrianne’s character that never came, and it kind of made me disappointed in a way that was hard to overlook.
In The Final Girl Support Group, Adrianne is one of the first Final Girls who survives a gruesome massacre at a summer camp. In the book’s universe, her life becomes the basis for a slasher film franchise. As the film series progresses, the writers replace Adrianne’s character with a white woman as the lead, so Adrianne ultimately sues the franchise, buys the rights to the films, and opens a retreat for survivors of similar massacres. She meets a therapist named Dr. Carol, who convinces Adrianne to attend her support group for women of similar backgrounds. This premise alone makes Adrianne an incredibly fascinating character, one who deserves her own book, but some things are too good to be true, and before she even has a chance to be properly introduced, Adrianne is murdered. Her death kicks off the main action of the book as Lynette realizes someone is targeting Final Girls.
Lynette is a mess. A lot of it is understandable, considering what she’s survived in her life, but Hendrix takes things up to an eleven in writing about Lynette’s trauma. She’s completely isolated except for the support group and her only friend is a plant. She built a security cage outside her apartment door, giving her complete control over who to grant access to.
Lynette takes wildly convoluted routes home in case she’s ever followed, sometimes spending hours changing buses and retracing her footsteps. She’s also a writer and plans to release a book about the support group, despite all the Final Girls initially agreeing that no one was to write about their experiences in the group to keep everyone safe. My biggest issue with Lynnette is how unlikable she is. She writes terrible things about the other Final Girls, she’s deeply selfish, her statements are rude, and she’s overly paranoid. Some of it is understandable but most of the time it’s a chore to read through.
Some plotlines felt completely unnecessary and painted Lynette in a terrible light. At one point in the book, Lynette forces two other Final Girls to kidnap the terminally ill wife, Michelle, of one of the fellow survivors from the support group, Danni. Lynette plans to take Michelle from hospice care to her home to be reunited with Danni but forgets the address of Danni’s house and can’t understand Michelle when she tries to tell her the address. Michelle soils herself, and Lynette realizes her goal to reunite Michelle with Danni is hopeless. She leaves Michelle in the park with a stranger, an old man who doesn’t realize she is dying. This whole section of the book took me several additional days to get through; I almost couldn’t believe what I was reading.
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There’s also a plotline that sees Lynette imprisoned for murder, but the story arc felt pointless and distracted from the main arc and mystery of who was killing the Final Girls from the support group. I did enjoy the references to other horror films to a degree, but by the end of the book, the references started feeling less like homages and more like plagiarism. I did enjoy some of the humor in the book and a few lines made me chuckle out loud. Other sentences felt poignant, and I appreciated the critiques of toxic masculinity.
One of the things Lynette said in the book stood out to me because it rings so true for many real-world parallels: “Men don’t have to pay attention the way we do. Men die because they make mistakes. Women? We die because we are female.”
I was very disappointed in this book; I had very high hopes as a super fan of Final Girls and the slasher genre. I think there are some great ideas presented but ultimately the book felt convoluted and cliched.
Let me know what you thought of The Final Girl Support Group. For all things, horror and pop culture, check out my website!