The Final Girl Support Group is a novel about what happens after the credits roll, when the final girl has escaped the first narrative but things aren’t over yet. Lynnette survived a massacre over twenty years ago, and lives a carefully guarded existence full of rules and escape plans. She also attends a support group for other “final girls”, the last survivors of massacres who (mostly) killed whoever was trying to kill them. When one of the group doesn’t show up, Lynnette knows this means her fears have been realised, but with so many killers and their fans out there, it’s hard to know who to look out for and how to protect all of the final girls.
Having read a couple of Grady Hendrix’s other horror novels, I was intrigued to see how this one would play with the horror genre. What the book does is use and deconstruct the slasher genre, but also looks at how it is influenced by real life crime, with each of the final girls’ stories having been turned into a film/franchise, to varying success. The chapters are intercut with documents from the pasts of the women who were final girls, providing some insight into what happened to them but never quite giving away everyone’s full story (which I found frustrating occasionally, but that made me question if there is some need to hear the gory details about horrors, real or fictional).
This all sits alongside Lynnette’s narration, showing someone whose trauma has turned into a survivalist mentality. She’s a complicated narrator, at times difficult to like but also giving the book a unified story that I think I enjoyed more than I would’ve enjoyed multiple perspectives for this one. The action starts early on, and the book combines horror and thriller so the pace is quite fast, with occasional digressions into the past. There’s a good range of clues and red herrings throughout, with a sense that you’ve got to be thinking in the genre, and the final showdown comes together nicely (well, maybe ‘nicely’ isn’t the best word…).
There’s also a side plot (well, it’s more of a theme than a plot) around ‘murderphernalia’ and the general obsession with killers, which serves as both part of the plotline at times and also brings an interesting message at the end as Lynnette tries to highlight the need to remember the victims, not the killers. The horror genre itself probably doesn’t help the issue, and the self-aware element of the book is engaging, though doesn’t stop it also just being a decent tense horror novel in a slasher/thriller vein.
As with Hendrix’s other books, this is horror which takes a specific concept/trope and runs with it, and it’s enjoyable to see what is done with the final girl trope and the question of whether or not the killer dies at the end of the film/book.