Final Girls – Riley Sager

finalgirlssmFor Quincy Carpenter, it began at Pine Cottage, the weekend getaway with her classmates from which she was the only one who returned. Her white dress soaked in blood, much of it her own, she ran blindly through the woods into the road; fortunately, the man who found her and saved her, Franklin Cooper, was a police officer, but he could not protect her from the unwanted label she earned as one of “the Final Girls.”

Ten years have passed, and Quincy has rebuilt her life in New York City with her hot shot attorney boyfriend in the apartment largely paid for by the sum she was awarded following the lawsuit against the asylum whose lax security led to the Pine Cottage massacre. If Quincy has a dependency on Xanax and a light fingered tendency towards kleptomania it’s still better than what happened to Craig, Janelle, Betz and the others, and she has the distant support of sorority house survivor Lisa Milner, another “final girl.”

Then comes the news that Lisa is dead and once again the press show up on Quincy’s doorstep along with Samantha Boyd, survivor of the Nightlight Inn and the third of the final girls. Having dropped out of sight years before she has been driven from her anonymous life by Lisa’s death which the police eventually confirm was not suicide although it had been staged like one.

Debut novel of Riley Sager, Final Girls is uneven and inconsistent: Quincy says she doesn’t like horror films, that she rejects the label of “final girl,” yet with terse, uninvolving prose the novel takes glee in describing the bloody blades and rusty hand tools and the injuries they inflict even as it purports to despise the violence and the characters are less personalities and more an aggregate of characteristics.

finalgirlsdetailWith his eyes a light blue, a ferocious blue, an earnest blue, a sparkling blue, Coop’s eyes say more than he does, a monosyllabic forty one year old police officer (single) consisting of “rolling hills of muscle,” and Quincy’s trust of a disruptive stranger over the concerns of her boyfriend and her guardian angel is a contrivance which does not ring true, and as she allows herself to be manipulated it is difficult to feel other than she has brought it on herself as she lies to her boyfriend and the police and even destroys evidence.

Written commercially rather than well, despite the angle on which it is promoted Final Girls is less a novel of female empowerment and sisterhood than a downward spiral of how the bitches will turn on each other in order to get what they want, usually a man or revenge for someone having taken theirs, the narrative incongruously sprinkled with baking tips as though they were chocolate chips

Instead of killing the girls Sager should have killed her darlings and focused on the task at hand: with her blurb stating that the author is an avid baker, as the narrative opens Quincy is baking, a coping mechanism her father taught her as a child, and while that may supposedly be better than therapy as Quincy snaps cheery photographs of celebration cupcakes and teaches Sam to balance her flavours it is Sager’s own ingredients which are infuriatingly out of proportion.

Final Girls is available from Ebury Press from July



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