2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 0 books toward her goal of 200 books.

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sagar

Let me start by saying I do NOT like horror movies. Never have, never will. I don’t like the gory, gross, vivid depictions of violence. But, weirdly, I have always enjoyed this type of fiction… And equally weirdly, my imagination is WAY more vivid than any movie I’ve ever seen – which means that I’ve *seen* more disturbing imagery in my head than I ever have on a screen, large or small. As a result, I’ve never been able to understand my absolute and utter refusal to watch horror movies. After reading Riley Sagar’s latest, I think I have started to catch a glimpse of part of the reason why: the concept of the Final Girl.

For those who aren’t in the know, the Final Girl is the last man standing in your (stereo)typical horror story. The one who gets away. The girl who lives. The one who, despite all odds, sees another day. They’re the Disney Princesses of horror – the one-in-a-million story that ends well. But, does it really end well for these “survivors”? Or, as is more than imaginable for the DPs and anyone who has ever asked “but what happens next??” (a phenomenon of curiosity evidenced by the proliferation of the genre of fairy-tale retellings and continuations), is there maybe more to the story than we think, with happy endings never truly happy – or endings?

In Final Girls, Sagar explores this idea in great depth – and in reading this tale, I came to realize that one of the things I’ve always found most disturbing in horror movies (as in Disney movies, come to think of it) is the randomness of things. One girl gets hack-sawed; one walks away. One girl marries a prince; the other lives a life of servitude. There are elements of “she deserved it” in both genres – the pretty, spunky, worthy girl usually (but not always) manages to pull through. The selfish, stupid, silly ones usually (but not always) bite it. But life – and personality – is infinitely more complex than that, and that’s one of the things that always frustrated me in the movies but which books, with their ability to give us much better glimpses behind the curtain of personality and motivation, allow the opportunity to work-around.

Enter Final Girls, the book.

This was a very engaging tale of violence and secrets and fear and loathing, and a psychological analysis of what it means to survive – all wrapped in a narrative that felt like a movie but read like a book. The characters are infinitely more real than horror movie figures, even when they are described almost literally as such. The layered motivations and hidden agendas were a large part of what made this so interesting a read. Sure, there’s also seat-of-your-pants action and edge of that self-same seat suspense – I expected that. But what I didn’t expect was how much it made me think about women and fear and the impact of the latter on the lives of the former – even the ones who have not suffered from even a fraction of the violence that Quincy and Sam have… As Quincy attempts to pull her life back into some semblance of rationality and order, her efforts are often as difficult to *watch* as the violent flashbacks. This is a girl who is almost literally hanging by a thread, and her story is a study in self-control that I found thoroughly plausible. Sam is a delightfully dark enigma from her first appearances, and as her role shifts and shudders throughout, only becomes more so. The motivations of these women are fascinating to read and anticipate, and that anticipation definitely contributes to the overall eerie theme of the novel. There’s more here than meets the eye, and the ending delivers a one-two punch in that direction that I thoroughly enjoyed and didn’t entirely anticipate.

I would definitely NOT be able to watch this movie, but I thoroughly enjoyed my trip down the rabbit hole of the book!

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