Ten years ago, Quincy Carpenter was the sole survivor of a tragedy at Pine Cottage – a small cabin in the woods where she and five friends were staying to celebrate a birthday. Quincy doesn’t remember much of what happened that night, and she doesn’t want to.
Such cases cause media frenzy, however, and she was immediately dubbed a “Final Girl” – a horror movie term used to refer to the lone female who escapes whatever horror was involved. And, of course, the media are desperate to bring Quincy together with two other final girls – Lisa, who survived a massacre at her sorority house, and Sam, who survived similar torture at a motel. They all survived, but none of them was left unscathed, either mentally or physically.
The final girls have never met, although Quincy and Lisa have spoken on the phone. But Quincy then hears that Lisa has committed suicide. And then Sam, who had fallen off the radar, comes out to meet her.
I found this to be a refreshingly original concept. There are plenty of tales of being caught up in a massacre, but very few that look at what happens to the survivors afterwards. I think that Sager captured this perfectly, from the difficulties in dealing with the media frenzy, being recognised for the wrong reasons and the difficulties in returning back to a normal life.
And whilst there are flashbacks to the events at Pine Cottage, the majority is set in the present day as Quincy tries to get on with her life, yet is obviously still suffering from the events at Pine Cottage, her days made more bearable by a lifetime prescription of Xanax. She has a partner who seems to be on the verge of proposing, and has stayed in touch with Coop – the police officer who was first on the scene at Pine Cottage ten years ago – but has few friends beyond these two. I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks to the events at Pine Cottage as I desperately wanted to know what happened. It started out as a typical getaway involving drinks and a little matchmaking, before building up in tension as events take a sinister turn. I liked the way in which the present-day scenes were told in the first person, but the Pine Cottage scenes were told from a third person perspective. To me this suggested that Quincy was (understandably) trying to distance herself from those events, and I thought that this was a clever narrative device.
As Sam enters Quincy’s life, it’s clear that things are a little off. Quincy seems like a quiet and slightly reclusive individual dedicated to running her baking blog, while Sam has a “don’t fuck with me” attitude. Whilst they’re inextricably linked by the media’s bestowed “final girls” label, they are very different characters, and even though Quincy doesn’t know anything about Sam (other than what has been covered by the media), Quincy lets Sam stay for a few days, and the two get up to some rather unexpected activities. This part of the book fell a little flat for me. I understand that for Quincy it’s something of a release – throwing off the shackles of the Xanax and her deliberately normal life, but some of her actions are extreme and borderline implausible. That’s just my opinion, however – this aspect of the book just wasn’t to my taste.
That said, the novel soon picked up again as it became clearer what was going on. I had several theories whilst reading this, but none of them were correct. I loved how everything was wrapped up at the end of the novel – it was clever and twisted and unexpected, and I would definitely recommend Final Girls to fans of psychological thrillers.
Final Girls will be published on 13 July – many thanks to Ebury Publishing for providing a copy for review via Netgalley.