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Horror author Grady Hendrix‘s newest release is The Final Girl Support Group is all encapsulations of a slasher movie in literary format. Drawing references from 70’s to early 2000’s, the novel follows various its own kind of final girls: survivors of grisly mass murders that Hollywood capitalized on and made the slasher movies we so dearly love today.

The Plot

Lynnette Tarkington is a final girl who survived two mass killings in her teenage years, and she hasn’t found a moment of peace since. She lives a life of paranoia in which she has no friends, no responsibilities (minus a plant named Fine), and no connections to the outside world other than a therapeutic support group for final girls like her.

slasher: Sidney Prescott in Scream

The support group is on the verge of falling apart. The women are all decades older and want to move on from reliving their tragedies, while the lead therapist, Dr. Carol (named after Dr. Carol Clover, author of the book Men, Women and Chainsaw, in which she coined the term “final girl” and also a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in film theory).

Lynette is especially devastated by how many of her peers want to leave; group is her only safe space. But when one member of the final girls is killed, it turns out that no one is safe and a mass murdering spree is about to begin again.

“There’s more to life than staying alive.”

Final girl tropes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and Silent Night, Deadly Night are among Hendrix’s inspirations for the novel, and he carefully applies horror tropes in a modernistic approach. With Lynnette’s first person narration, the story moves at an exhilarating pace. Hendrix creates a healthy balance with the breaks between the action sequences.

Additionally, every chapter begins with a section of fictional, but believably academic, journal articles, movie reviews, letters, interviews and reddit forums that exist in the novel’s universe. These sections were a creative way to fill in plot holes without relying on heavy exposition from Lynette. I was always excited to read the next one.

What Works and What Doesn’t

The Final Girl Support Group was absolutely exciting. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, so it was wonderful to have a book that I was excited to read and spend my free time with. Hendrix’s writing is memorable and well written; each character is fully fleshed out with their own quirks, flaws and humor and not reduced to their appearances (you know those authors who, whenever they write a female character, describe every exhausting inch of her body and little detail on anything else).

There are moments when topics of gender and sexism are brought up, and the discussions of which feel over-simplistic. Essentially, characters saying something happened to them just because they are a woman which, yes, can be as simple as that, but often not. This is especially the case of the singular Black woman in the novel, Adrienne, whose main point of existence is to help her white peers. Such is common in fiction, and it is disappointing that this book works hard on breaking harmful horror stereotypes yet sticks with that one.

slasher; Nancy Thompson in Nightmare on Elm Street

Then again, I could counter my own argument by saying Hendrix uses other characters to express how social issues stem deeper than the surface. However, while he does touch on racism in horror, I would argue that it is shallow. There are layers to this book I wasn’t expecting. So in summary, Hendrix has created a work of art that I can simultaneously analyze, argue with myself about and have fun with. He is an excellent writer and great at building tension. He creates empathetic and despicable characters that I hate to love and love to hate.

The Verdict

The Final Girl Support Group is a delightful ode to slasher movies and horror. It’s fast-paced, terrifying, self-aware and wonderfully gory. This is a book you should absolutely read.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Book Reviews

A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

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The Plot

“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?”  — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.

The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.

Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.

The Verdict

This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.

It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Woom: An Extreme Horror Novel

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“That doesn’t invalidate it,” Angel said. “There’s no statute of limitations on pain.”

The Plot

Angel is a man who knows pain: physical, mental, sexual. The story begins with Angel visiting Room 6 at the Lonely Motel and ordering a plus-size sex worker to his room. What comes next is Angel’s retellings of painful stories while performing sexual acts on the sex worker, Shyla.

The novel reads as a book of short stories, as Angel relays stories to Shyla and she tells him stories back. This is a novel of pain and disgust. Angel’s stories are so dark and traumatic that Shyla can’t believe they are true. As Angel bares his soul, we see a side of him that is melancholy and unable to process hurt in a natural way.

The Verdict

This novel is full of disgusting visuals and isn’t afraid to get dirty. This truly is an extreme horror novel. As a warning, there is discussion of feces, blood, rape, sex, and body horror. This novel is not for the faint of heart. You’ll close this short novel feeling dirty. Angel is a character that begs for sympathy while his stories narrate that he may not be as innocent as he perceives.

When the subtitle says this novel is extreme horror, believe it. Only the strong will survive Duncan Ralston’s Woom. It is more splatterpunk than anything, but true literary quality lies beneath the filth.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Did She Do It? Stacy Willingham’s “All the Dangerous Things” Asks Us Just This

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One year ago, Isabelle’s life crumbled when her baby was abducted from her home. Her marriage to her husband, Ben, is destroyed as they try to navigate the fallout.

The Plot

Even one year after the abduction, Isabelle seeks answers. She is still doing appearances at true crime expos to get information on the attendees, thinking the abductor will be there one day. Abductors usually revisit their crime and Isabelle swaps her appearances for the event guest list, never taking any money for her talks.

Some think that Isabelle killed her own baby as evidence from the case says the perpetrator came from inside the house. Isabelle hasn’t slept – not fully – since Mason was abducted. Her therapist is worried that she may be having hallucinations. Is Isabelle the killer or is she on a quest for true justice?

The Verdict

I absolutely loved the complication of not knowing whether Isabelle was a reliable or unreliable narrator. This was my favorite aspect of the novel. It made me question everything that Isabelle had to say and the actions she executed.

Isabelle is a character that, as a mother, I really felt for. I wanted to believe that Isabelle was innocent, but I was hanging on the edge of my seat waiting to find out. Stacy Willingham is the master of a story that winds all around, waiting for you to find the truth.

If you are interested in reading Willingham’s first novel, A Flicker in the Dark, check out my review here.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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