Saturday, August 12

The Regal Critiques Review Final Girls by Riley Sager


Photo by Allef Vinicius

"But somehow we screamed louder, ran faster, fought harder. We survived."


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-fiancĂ©, 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.




OUR EXPECTATIONS


Ruzaika: What first caught my attention about the book was it being compared to Gone Girl and Stephen King endorsing it as a great thriller- how could I resist? The blurb sounded extremely promising and I was all set for a nail-bitingly suspenseful story. Did the book deliver what it promised to? We'll see about that.

                                                      

Veronika: For me, it was definitely Stephen King calling it one of the biggest books of 2017, or something along those lines, that caught me attention. I mean, let's be honest, I think, he was paid to say that, but still, I was intrigued. Moreover, the final girl trope has been used for decades in movies, shows and books, so I was really excited to see it being utilizied in a way that seemed very unique based on the blurb. It seemed that the story will raise the question of what happens to the final girl after she's survived?


THE PLOT

V: For me, discussing Final Girls's maybe most important aspect, the plot, is a tad bit tricky. Upon finishing the novel I was raving about it to friends and family alike, recommending it left and right. However, somewhere along the way, in the past few weeks, I lost some of that enthusiasm. Looking back I'm just not as impressed with the plot - or the characters, but we'll get back to that - as I was then.

That said, the plot WAS intriguing, it packed many shocking twists that totally caught me off guard. The build-up was also excellent, we started off with Quincy living her "perfect" little life, and then saw all the different shades to her that didn't really fit into the picture that she was trying to paint of herself.

The flashbacks of what happened at Pine Cottage years ago added and edge to the plot, as Quincy was slowly but surely regaining her memories. That said, I do wish that we'd have seen more of present-Quincy deal with what happened back then. For someone who was so happy about being able to not remember what happened, she certainly accepted getting back her memories very quickly.

                                                      

R: While my expectations for Final Girls was undoubtedly very high, due to what I'd like to term as the Gone Girl Effect, I did have my reservations. And I'm glad for that because while the plot did offer numerous twists and surprises, I did have a few problems with it. Maybe not problems, per se, but things could certainly have been even better. 

The overall plot was thrilling and well-paced and had me hooked- I'd say there was never a point where I felt bored or listless. The surprises kept coming and I appreciate the way they were dealt with. I loved that we had alternating chapters between the present and what happened at Pine Cottage in the past, and Quincy being an unreliable narrator just added to the thrill of it all.


THE WRITING

R: I don't really have much to say about the writing except that it sufficed- I wasn't particularly bowled over by it because it somehow just missed the kind of edge I would have liked in a psychological thriller. Thanks to the plot twists that kept coming, I was still thoroughly engaged and the alternating chapters between the past and the present definitely worked in favor of the book too!

                                                      

V: I'll have to disagree with Ruzi on the writing, albeit, I do feel like her opinion in this section matters more, because she generally pays more attention to the writing than I do. 

That said, I thought the writing was good, very solid and straight to the point. The author managed to convey the characters' emotions incredibly well, and I'd like to highlight how she managed to create completely different vibes for each proportion of the story. Another thing - at various scenes I couldn't help but imagine how good this would look on the big screen, because the images the author painted were super-vivid.


THE CHARACTERS

V: The characters were probably the best aspect of Final Girls. I loved how at first glance most, if not all of them seemed rather simple, for example: Quincy seemed to have been perfectly okay living her everyday life, Samantha was the wild and rebellious one, while Coop was the reliable friend who's always had Quincy's back. Then, just when I was convinced that is all there is to the characters, bamm, we got to see them show just how much more complex they were than I initially assumed.

I think what the author did right was to build up the tension, and not reveal all these complex characters at once, rather one by one. First, there was Quincy being not so perfect and then that escalated, then Samantha being way more reckless than I expected, and so on. There was always one more fact, one more shocking reveal about the main cast that kept me going.

Another thing, the author was pro at foreshadowing future problems in the characters' relationship. From the first moment Sam arrived there was a power imbalance in her relationship with Quincy that only got worse from there, whilst increasingly bigger sings pointed to just how imperfect Quincy and Jeff's relationship was.

                                                      

R: The characters are definitely the best (and my most favorite) aspect of Final Girls too, and for pretty much the same reasons as Vera- they were all so complex and layered, and you think you have it all figured when it comes to them and BAM! they do something to surprise you. 

Quincy was, as mentioned, an unreliable narrator here and we never know whether to completely buy what she offers us. There times when you know just what to expect of the characters and they deliver, and then there are times when they'd do something completely out of character and you're left questioning whether you ever even them to begin with. 

The dynamics between Quincy and Samantha were very well done, and the same could be said of Quincy and Coop, and Quincy and Jeff as well. With regards to the characters there's little to complain of and I'm very happy with how they all turned out to be.


THE ENDING

R:  I'm not necessarily unhappy with how things stood for them towards the end, but I do feel what happened at the very end (hahaha, I'm being very cryptic, am I not?) was a little bit over the top. I also feel the things that lead up to the ending, i.e. what happened at Pine Cottage, could have been done better. That said, the author did do the story justice, and the ending was, if not perfect, quite very satisfactory.

                                                      

V: I really liked how everything was wrapped up, but the part Ruzi brought up, a sort of epilogue, really was over the top and felt quite unnecessary to add. To be honest, I feel like this last bit was added purely to create something different from the usual, but it didn't work, because it wasn't exactly well-executed.

OVERALL

V: Like, I said, my initial excitement over how amazing Final Girls was has left me, which is very disappointing, and actually makes me reconsider my original five star rating. That said, I don't really have much to complain about - everything was on point, besides some minor complaints I have, such as the plot could have been fast paced through more than around 1/3 of the book, and the ending could have been better executed. As these two aren't big things, and I genuinely loved reading Final Girls, I'll leave my 5 star rating for now. To be honest, as we were writing this review, I've managed to regain some of that excitement, as well, so yay. 

Would I recommend this? Hell yes! Final Girls was an amazing psychological thriller, even if it didn't live up to the kind of mindfuckery that Gone Girl presented, it certainly was better than most novels I've read of the same genre. Shocking twists and reveals, well-developed characters and fucked up relationships, that's Final Girls for you.

                                                      

R: Overall, I'm quite satisfied with Final Girls despite the few shortcomings which could be pinned down to mostly the Gone Girl Effect like I said before- that is truly a book tough to live up to in my honest opinion, and I'd always have my reservations about books that are touted to be along the lines of that.

I'd dock down a star for the tiny problems we discussed above, however, yes, this one did work well as a psychological thriller, thanks to the superb plot and well-layered, complex characters, and I'd definitely recommend it to you if you feel like picking up a thrilling, suspenseful page-turner. On a final note, like Vera mentioned before, I kept thinking that I'd love to see this one adapted as a movie and I hope that happens very soon! This would be just splendid on screen!

“I'm a fucking final girl.”

2 comments:

  1. I bloody loved this book! (Sorry for the bluntness) I won this as an ARC and our UK cover is bright pink and black, it's gorgeous. I never actually read a psychological adult thriller before, always YA lately but I loved it. Chilling as well. Great review ladies.

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    Replies
    1. Ahaha I'm glad you loved it so much, Emma! It sure was incredibly suspenseful- quite the page-turner indeed! Also, may I suggest you read Gone Girl? You'd LOVE it, I'm sure!

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