Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
Pros – the reveal at the end, Quincy, the entire book
Cons – not gonna lie my one and only Con for this book is such a huge spoiler I can’t put it here
Note – I can’t stress enough pay attention to the details in this book. Every. Single. One.
Spoiler – I don’t spoil anything! Not even whether or not people live or die!
Review – Oh gosh oh my. OK folks let’s start this wild ride I found myself on.
What drew me to this book originally was the title “Final Girls”. One of my favorite tropes is the ‘Final Girl’ trope and its both criminally unused and overused somehow. (for the record my favorite modern Final Girl is Emma Roberts in Scream 4, much like Neve Campbell in Scream, Emma is as much a deconstruction of the trope as she is an embodiment of it at times).
After reading the excerpt in the recent Buzz Books sampler I absolutely needed to read it. This is as much a thriller as it is a psychological look at how time, memory and emotions can make a person blind. There is so much horror for Quincy to have endured it makes sense for her to push it out of memory. Not just of the killings, but of other factors – if she remembered she’d have to examine how certain other clues would mess her up even more.
When discussing it with my friend Amanda aka @BeingPerry on twitter (who I more or less peer pressured into reading it, to the detriment of her sleeping) we were both surprised that who the killer turned out to be didn’t register with her (or us) beforehand. Looking back at context clues, little things that could be waved away added up real quick however.
The book is largely from Quincy’s POV and she is, at the best of times, unreliable as a narrator when it comes to the missing chunk of memory and her emotions thereafter. Whether because of the trauma of the event or her almost compulsive need for alcohol and Xanax to get through the day/night, Quincy doesn’t see or feel things in a normal way. Sager excels at making the reader feel that – there are times when Quincy is so high on Xanax and alcohol and her own spiraling emotions that I wasn’t sure just how “real” the reality she was perceiving was.
There’s something about Tina Stone/Samantha “Call me Sam” Boyd we should all discuss. This girl…she is super sketch from the get-go and never seems to let up. I mean this literally. Now again, going back to how Quincy’s perceptions are unreliable, but Tina/Sam is ALWAYS sketch. You can’t ask her what her favorite brand of cookie is without it becoming an interrogation requiring “enhanced methods”. A simple walk down the sidewalk leads to theft and violence. She claims it’s to help Quincy accept her past, but her methods are so messed up you have to wonder what she did to move past her own trauma. Then again maybe not since she’s quick to mouth the right words, but is so obviously NOT OKAY with her past.
And we have Jeff…Jeff the most normal, bland guy you could ever meet. I’ll be honest I don’t even remember what he looks like? I just remember how…wrong he felt for Quincy. She says he accepted what he meant to be with her (both as a weird sick fascination for the press and her own trauma), but he does everything except give her a lobotomy to make her push it aside. Not overtly, like her mother with the huge push for Quincy to live on Xanax to become “fine” again. In that emotional guilt sort of way.
There is a number of times that Quincy will feel guilty for being a burden on Jeff because of things she can’t help. When a positive attribute of your relationship is the fact neither of you can (or will) talk about important matters (in his case about his job, in hers about her past) that’s not healthy. When instead of trying to understand WHY she is feeling anxious he simply assumes it will pass with her favorite meal, you have a problem. I’m not sure if he knew the full extent of her emotional dependence on Xanax to “get through the day”, but I’m not sure how he could miss it.
As a person Jeff didn’t seem like a bad guy – especially considering he was a public defender and very committed to his job as one (there’s a couple times the conversation of “Would you defend the guy who massacred half a dozen people?” and his answer was basically yes, because they deserve a fair trial. While that may be true, you don’t say that to a survivor of such a horrific massacre who happens to be your girlfriend). It was just obvious he and Quincy were not made for each other.
Which is where Coop comes in. Coop, the policeman who called in the crime. Coop who has been there for Quincy through everything. Coop who drops everything to drive from the Poconos to New York City if Quincy needs him. Coop who is solid and steadfast and while not overly affectionate in the way that Quincy craves, does at least understand she’s a fragile glass house with hairline fissures everywhere. Coop obviously cares for her – everyone mentions it at least once and just as obviously wants a wall between them. As to why, it’s anyone’s guess as Quincy has never felt a need to trespass beyond that invisible barrier, even if she wanted to.
The book comes full circle at the end. I mean that in the best way – it all ends where it all began in an almost mirror copy of the life or death struggle Quincy first found herself in ten years ago. Everybody wants answers to their questions – why did HE do it? How at fault was Quincy and her friends really? Why was Quincy spared – yes she was injured, but nowhere near as badly as her friends. In the end will knowing the truth of what happened that night help her to move on (as Tina/Sam claims) or will it just make her already crumbling, messy life that much worse?
When the truth does come out – about that night, about HIM and about Quincy’s involvement – it’s both startling and unsettling. As I mentioned earlier once you know the truth the clues left behind build a solid picture of just how disturbing the reality is.
Sager takes you on this wild rager of a ride and from page one the reader is so tied up in the feelings of Quincy that you too get blinded to what really happened. So so good. Whole heartedly recommended.
Published by: Penguin Dutton
Release: July 11, 2017
Add it to Goodreads