Monday, November 27, 2017

Jamie Lee Curtis, she's not.

So, before we start unpacking Riley Sager's Final Girls, let me define the term for those not versed in such esoterica. In slasher horror films, the heroine who survives the movie and takes out the killer as part of the process. Case in point, Jamie Lee Curtis, who survived three Halloween movies. (We won't mention the fourth one she was in, since it was horrible. I guess she's coming back for a fifth that will ignore most everything that's come before. But that's beside the point, since this is a book blog. You want horror movie discussion, go read Candy-Coated Razor Blades or listen to Bob's podcast.)


Final Girls centers on Quincy, a real life Final Girl who survived a massacre at Pine Cottage, somewhere in Pennsylvania, where she'd been camping with friends. In her rare company (although she's never met either in real life) are Sam, who survived a motel massacre in Idaho, and Lisa, who survived a sorority bloodbath in Illinois. Quincy used settlement money from the lawsuit surrounding Pine Cottage to buy an apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, where she writes a baking blog and hides from the world. Sam dropped off the face of the planet following her encounter with fame, and Lisa helps at risk children as well as supporting girls who survive.

Quincy has a vanilla boyfriend, Jeff, who works as a public defender. Quincy drinks lots of wine and takes Xanax with grape soda. She occasionally steals from random strangers. The cop who ended up shooting her maniac is a friend who visits on occasion named Cooper.

And then Lisa commits suicide. Which sets Quincy into an anxiety tailspin. Particularly when she finds an e-mail Lisa had sent a few hours prior to her death that she'd missed. Followed quickly by the appearance of the long hidden Sam on her doorstep. Sam ends up staying with Quincy, which puts a few more rifts into her relationship with Jeff. Sam is a bad girl, smoking, drinking Wild Turkey, and shoplifting from Bloomingdale's. She also continually challenges Quincy on her big memory gap about the night of the Pine Cottage Massacre. (Quincy has repressed about an hour of time froim memory. From the time the first victim walked back to the cabin bleeding out until she ran into Cooper running out of the woods, with Cooper shooting the killer.)

It turns out Lisa was murdered, but since no one realized this until after the toxicology report came in, the crime scene can't be processed properly, and therefore they doubt they'll ever know who killed her. Sam's appearance, on the other hand, gets Quincy back in the papers, something she'd been trying to avoid.

A whole lot of baking and vigilantism later, we wind up back at Pine Cottage in both the past and present to reveal that the book indeed had a plot buried somewhere within.

Ah yes, the plot. The pacing was a real issue here. Much like, say, Pet Semetary by Stephen King, nothing really happens until about 75 pages from the end. Indeed, I kept expecting recipes for the blog to start littering the prose while waiting for something to happen.

Another major issue centers around the two major plot twists dealing with motives and identity. They come about 3 pages apart, not really letting the first one grow fertile. Because really, had the first one been revealed a few chapters before, it could have been a much better red herring. Instead, it promptly gets buried under the weight of the second reveal. That the second reveal happens in the final chapter also robs us of the chance to see the Final Girl of the trope in action. It really should have let us see Quincy blossom again as a survivor, but it really doesn't exactly. We find out what's going on, she resolves the problem a page later.

Now, I originally picked this up after seeing it on Goodreads picks for Horror Novel of the Year, with a bit of trepidation after seeing Stephen King's blurb on the front cover. After The Troop, I'm a little leery of reading books with his plug on the cover of a book written by another author under a pseudonym. This one is ok. I mean, yes, the book needed a bit more editing, but it's readable enough and entertaining after a while.

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