My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway, which comes with the expectation that I'll review the book. I was not compensated in any way for my review.
I'm usually wary of debut novels. There's something of the unpolished about them, some unrealized potential. I should've read more closely. This is the writer's first book under this name. He honed his craft on his murder mystery series set closer to home.
The Final Girl is a horror movie trope, where the good girl who kept away from the sex and drugs that got her friends killed becomes the last one left, and has to confront the killer to make it out alive. Quincy Carpenter has lived through that reality, emerging as the sole survivor in a stabbing spree at Pine Cottage deep in the woods of Pennsylvania. She's blocked out the memory of that horrific time, from the moment where she watched her best friend bleed out to her timely rescue. People have tried to help her remember, but it's stayed locked away for ten years.
Then Lisa Milner, another Final Girl who survived a similar horror, turns up dead, her wrists slashed in her bathtub. Soon after, Samantha Boyd, the most reclusive of the Final Girls, shows up at Quincy's Manhattan apartment. As relieved as Quincy is to have a friend she shares a big part of herself with, she quickly finds plenty of reasons to question Sam's motives in tracking her down. Sam wants Quincy to remember Pine Cottage, but why?
I had an inkling of where the book was going within the first few pages, but I managed to discard my theories and just go along for the ride. Two women bonding over similar trauma might not sound like a fun read, but the plotting and tension kept me flipping pages. I was delighted to be right, in the end, but I'd nearly forgotten my initial suspicion by then.
There's a lot to this book: trauma, survivor's guilt, mental illness, trust, sensationalism, resilience, strength, anger, growth through pain, friendship, denial, labels, and survival. The book sidesteps easy answers, handling the complexity of Quincy's perspective with nuance. Quincy is a multilayered, flawed character. She works so hard at being the person she believes she is that the real Quincy can only come out in exaggerated bursts. She makes her life even harder than it has to be, but you can see exactly why she does, because she isn't even equipped to imagine the alternatives. I would've hated her as a person, but, as a character, she's perfect.
If you like your thrillers raw and bloody and heavy on the psychological, I strongly recommend you give this book a try. I was thoroughly engrossed by Final Girls, and fully invested in Quincy's story. I'm interested to see what else the pseudonymous Riley Sager comes out with, and I may even give Todd Ritter's mysteries a chance.
Maybe I'll skip the first one.
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