{Review} Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls

by Riley Sager
Published June 2017
Goodreads: See here
Psychological Thriller / Suspense

Synopsis at a Glance:

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.



Every so often there comes a book which is important for a reviewer as it reminds them to temper their expectations when they go into a highly anticipated read. This was one of those books for me. When will I remember to do that before I read the book?!

From the second I first heard about this book I was possibly a bit more excited about it than I should have been. The rave reviews and critical acclaim all helped bolster my anticipation, but the thing I was most drawn to was that title! As a fan of the horror genre, and of portrayals of strong female characters in horror in particular, I was not unfamiliar with the idea of a “Final Girl” – or the female character who manages to survive against all odds in a horror film while every other side and main character meets a dicey end.

Titling the book as such draws direct correlations with that part of horror that I love the most. You call a book Final Girls and immediately I think of the Nancys, Sidneys, Ripleys and other characters like them. Strong women with agency that face incredible odds and inevitably have to fight for their survival. Because they’re typically outmatched physically by their antagonist, they have to rely on strength of character, and their wits to keep them alive.

I was hoping for more of that here with the introduction of new characters I could empathize with with root for as the trope was further explored.

Unfortunately, while the trope is invoked, it’s difficult to buy any of the characters here as true Final Girls. It doesn’t help that for the most part, the trauma they endured that made them Final Girls happens off screen before the start of the book, meaning the reader only gets a second-hand perspective on the moment that was categorically the most life-changing bit of character development any of them would ever receive.

This brings me directly to Quincy, and some of the issues I had with her and aspect of predictability that I struggled with. Sager does an awesome job at misdirection, I will give the author that. While I ultimately did guess correctly what was going to happen in the end of the book, there were many moments particularly after the first half of the book that I began to second guess myself.

The problem I had with this is that in doing so, Quincy is made pretty unlikable as a character. There are entire chapters dedicated to pointing out glaring flaws in her character, and while I think Sager was trying to explore PTSD after trauma affecting someone’s psyche, I think it could have been handled a bit more carefully and without making the lead so difficult to trust. 

Quincy and Sam are easily the most vividly drawn characters in the novel. Sager does eventually reveal their histories and secrets as the story unfolds – some of which I think would make re-reading this book quite fun. That being said, I do wish the same care had been paid to some the ancillary characters who fell a bit flat. The chapters that explore Quincy’s memories prove that Sager is definitely good at ratcheting up the tension, but the characters that fill those pages aside from Quincy ranged from bland to totally forgettable.

I would have preferred to spend a bit more time in that past timeline, getting to see these characters establish themselves as true Final Girls rather than just be told that they are in the present. Not to mention there’s a sideplot with Sam and Quincy that just took up too much time and I think would have been better served revisiting those earlier events that were so important to their characterizations.

Ultimately, this was still a really enjoyable read. Just be warned, all you horror fans out there who might be drawn to this book because of its name: this is psychological thriller, not horror, so temper your expectations before you begin and you’ll be golden!

🌟🌟🌟✩✩ = 3/5 stars

What did you think of this book? Can you recommend any good thrillers that play off of horror movie tropes well?





21 thoughts on “{Review} Final Girls by Riley Sager

Add yours

  1. This was my BOTM selection and I, like you, was super hyped for it! The cover art, title, synopsis it was like THE book I was looking forward to. I haven’t finished yet, but I’m agreeing with a lot of the underwhelming/could have been handled differently sentiments you’ve shared.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I went into it expecting something quite different…made me think that a book about final girls being picked off so you have a final girl of the final girls might be fun!
    The ultimate problem with this one I think is what you pointed out – the main character was so unlikeable that I really just didn’t care all that much what happened to her.
    Apparently the author is someone very well known writing under a pseudonym – any idea or thought as to who it might be?
    Enjoying the blog, just found it today 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David, I’m with you that I expected more from the premise of the book. I think it should have committed and explored the trope of Final Girls more directly and more about these characters facing a harrowing new danger. The mystery lacked the suspense and tension I had anticipated until the final third of the book. I read that this is the first book in a series too, so many Sager will explore those tropes more carefully/closely in the future.

      I’m not sure who the author is! A mystery!


  3. Very good review, I have heard about this book in a lot of places, but not many have read and reviewed it yet so I have been really curious

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear you were having trouble with it! I definitely think you should give it another go, once the book passes the halfway point I felt like things started moving more quickly and became more tense. The final 3rd of the book was what I wished the rest of it had been. Hopefully you like that half more!


  4. Strangely enough I think I’ve only come across reviews for this book that weren’t that delighted by the book… Great review though, I love how you validate your criticisms!

    And I have to mention- that first gif! Dayum, this dude is hot… I started watching Teen Wolf and for the love of me it bores me to tears but I watch it only because he’s in it 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The horror movie final girls trope is definitely what prompted me to pick up this title but I’ve been hesitant to read it due to my build up of expectations. I’m trying not to expect too much going in, and thank you for the distinction between psychological thriller and horror, I think that’s where a lot of people end up disappointed. I’ve been loving psych thrillers this year tho so hopefully this book delivers.

    Thanks for the honest and thoughtful review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jamie! I think the best thing you can do is exactly what you’re doing – lower your expectations out of “hype level” (which I was in when I started it, unfortunately) and you should be in a good place to start. I think if you can appreciate psychological thrillers, you’re liable to really enjoy this!


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