Title: Final Girls
Author: Riley Sager
Publisher: Ebury Press
Publication Date: July 2017
Synopsis: Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
Review: I’m not going to go through the plot line because it is covered in the synopsis. This book kept me gripped, so much so that I was able to finish it in 1 day and, seems as I have been waiting on this book for months, I was really happy with its execution. What I loved most about the book was the way the writer conveyed Quincey’s unravelling but before I get into that, let’s take a look at the characters themselves.
Quincey: Quincey is the only survivor of the Pine Cottage massacre and, in an attempt to escape her memories and horrific past, she nestles into a very Stepford sort of life with a perfect lawyer boyfriend and a neat little cupcake business. When you first meet her, you instantly get the impression that this life is only satisfying her at a surface level, underneath is chaos and turmoil that is being very dangerously surpressed due to her refusal to deal with her past; this is also shown by the fact that Quincey’s own story is told to the reader in 3rd person while her current life is in 1st and her separation from the story allows her to relive it. The reader quickly learns that this tactic of a stable outward appearance derives from her mum, who she has a turbulent relationship with due to her mother refusing to deal head on with Quincey’s survival and her husband’s death and, even though Quincey berates her mum for this, she unconsciously adopts this as her coping mechanism.
Quincey’s baking is an area of her life she takes pride in as it gives her a connection to her late father and she also uses it as a treatment method whenever she starts to feel that life is getting on top of her. She notes that baking is precise, there is no room for error and it rarely gives any surprises; if the recipe is followed to the letter, then the outcome is predictable and this is exactly how Quincey wants her life to be. However, the introduction of Sam into her life changes the recipe completely and unleashes chaos.
Sam: Sam is one of the other Final Girls who survived the Nightlight Inn massacre and, in this book, she is also the physical representation of chaos, disorder and Quincey’s inner turmoil. When we first meet Sam, her outward appearance makes the reader feel on edge because we have been introduced to Quincey and her perfect life and Sam’s smudged black eyeliner and tousled hair is a direct contrast to what we have become comfortable with. In chapter 7, Sam’s role in this story is evident when Quincey and Sam are presenting Quincey’s bakes but the finished pieces don’t look quite right. Sam practically destroys the presentation and Quincey deems it a good thing as Sam has brought “life” back into a “lifeless” presentation; this mirrors Quincey’s personal feelings about what Sam has brought into her own “perfect” life.
As the story goes on, Quincey and Sam’s relationship begins to get incredibly intense, this is represented in the book by light and day. At the beginning of the book, Quincey is bathed in light because it keeps her inner demons out (Pine Cottage massacre took place at night), for example, she is always outside in the daylight and her apartment is light and airy, but, when Sam comes into her life, darkness begins to creep in which highlights Quincey starting to face her inner turmoil which has been brought to the surface. As the story progresses, the darkness begins to take over until she is walking through Central Park in complete darkness. At one point in the park, there is a powerful image of Sam’s face half in light and half in darkness; this not only symbolises Sam’s dual nature and identity but also her part as Janus in Quincey’s life, where she makes her look at her past and her future. I think their intense relationship is what really makes this book work as well as Sager’s clever use of symbolism and it is what kept me gripped throughout.
This next part is what I didn’t like but it also contains spoilers so, if you are considering reading the book, please don’t read on.
As I said before, I really enjoyed this book, however, I felt the ending was a bit of a let down. The final reveal was shocking but the mini twist along the way left me feeling flat, mainly because I had correctly guessed it by page 141. This is only one strand of the story but the revelation of Sam not being the real Sam was very predictable but, not only that, she drugs Quincey and makes her face her demons by taking her back the Pine Cottage to dredge up blocked memories. This in itself is the ultimate betrayal, coupled with the fact that all of this is done at knife point (Quincey was stabbed three times in the massacre). At the end of the book, Sam takes the fall for something Quincey has done and, not only that, they part as friends! I was completely outraged by this, even though it really helped Quincey in the long run, Sam’s act was completely brutal and selfish and could harbour fresh turmoil for Quincey.
If you’re debating whether to read this book, you most definitely should as it is a well crafted book with brilliant symbolism and imagery as well as a gripping storyline. If you do, let me know what you think!