Dutton | 2017
Filed Under: When a novel makes you with “Tom Cruise jump on a couch” joy
It’s my birthday and I’m King of the World!
Okay, it’s not my birthday, nor am I a king, but that’s how this book makes me feeeeeeel.
I’m not going to shame other people for their opinions on this one, but I will say if you didn’t like it, I truly believe you missed the beauty of what Riley Sager did here.
But, still, no judgement. I respect you all, I’m just a little bit in love with this novel. But also you’re wrong.
At Pine Cottage, ten years earlier, Quincy Carpenter emerged from the woods, bloody and screaming, the only survivor of a murderous massacre. We’re talking slasher-flick-sized proportions. The only problem is, in present-day, Quincy has repressed all memories of that night. She has no idea what happened.
By surviving this horrific event, Quincy becomes a member of a very exclusive club dubbed in the media as The Final Girls.
“Final girls is film-geek speak for the last woman standing at the end of a horror movie.”
There are two other members of The Final Girls: Sam and Lisa. Lisa, being the oldest is probably also the wisest. She’s navigated being a Final Girl for a long time, so she reaches out to Quincy following her ordeal and they form a unique long-distance friendship. Sam proves more elusive, preferring to stay out of the public eye. She and Quincy have never met, despite attempts by many, including the likes of Oprah. In the here and now, Sam has disappeared altogether.
Until Lisa kills herself.
Quincy has convinced herself she’s over her trauma, but “over it” starts to look more like “ignoring it” when she gets word of Lisa’s death. She starts to pop more Xanax, she gets a little angrier and a little more on edge. Then Sam shows up on her doorstep. Sam is shady and unpredictable. Quincy’s live-in boyfriend, Jeff, doesn’t like her. Quincy’s rescuer, Coop, doesn’t trust her. Quincy doesn’t know who to trust or how she feels. All she knows for sure is that Sam is a human hurricane, pushing her to remember what happened at Pine Cottage. Pushing her, with dire consequences, to tap into feelings she’d buried deep down all those years ago.
As her actions take a dark turn, Quincy knows she must find out what really happened to Lisa. Why would a proud survivor end her own life? And why has Sam suddenly shown up in her life?
Some reviews have called this predictable or obvious. Those readers deserve a cookie for being such good guessers because the ending on this one totally got me!! Not even playing.
I was so enraptured by the inspirations and events of this novel, that I totally believed all the red herrings Sager was dropping, thinking they were something else entirely, and I completely missed the big twist. And that is the beauty of what Riley Sager has done with this novel.
It pulls inspiration from those slasher horror movies most of us horror/thriller readers love – think Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer or Friday the 13th – and wraps them up in the maturity of an adult psychological thriller.
The juxtaposition of flashbacks to the immaturity of teens in a cabin in the wood adjacent to a mental hospital – who are considering losing their virginity and mucking about because the adults are away – mixed with the modern world Quincy has created for herself – one where a mass murder survivor now blogs about her fucking cupcakes for a living in her ballin’ apartment in the big city, with her lawyer fiancé – gave me all the feels. The kinds of feels you get when an author does something you find to be writing perfection.
I think it’s pretty clear Riley Sager and I are fans of the same things. Let’s be besties, Sager!
Technically, I loved Sager’s approach to writing as well. There is detail to it that doesn’t feel overt or forced, just natural scene-setting. I liken it to paint-by-numbers. The outline is there, you know the colours you’re working with, but the rest is up to you to create. He doesn’t beat you over the head with patterns and the colours of flecks in someone’s eyes. And the plotting! I will punch you in the throat it is. SO. GOOD.
I seriously get kind of emotional when a thriller writer tricks me with a plot twist.
Yes, this novel is full of tropes. Some that reviewers were disappointed by because they were done before, typical, and all the rest. But to this humble reviewer, it was a perfect blend of new and old.
You can see the inspiration, you can feel the love for what inspired him. But it was approached with respect as Sager created a new take, a new way to empower a female lead, a new way to bring us along on a slasher horror ride, and a new way to create a Final Girl.
I am beyond recommending this highly entertaining and fun thriller! What is the next step beyond recommending? Forcing? OK I’M FORCING IT!
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.