Welcome to another 31-day part of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and spookiest month of the year as we focus our attention on the horror and fun of Halloween. For the month of October, we’ll be sharing various pieces of underrated scary books, comics, movies and TV to help keep you terrified and entertained until Halloween.
If you’re a Grady Hendrix fan, you already know that he masters the balance of humor, horror, and the heart in a way that really shouldn’t be possible. He also has a knack for making remarkable characters who are completely (and sometimes uncomfortably) relatable.
Hendrix’s latest novel, The Girls’ Ultimate Support Group, presents the author at the top of his game with wonderful media commentary on pop culture / horror.
From Merriam-Webster: The “final girl” is a trope in horror films, referring to the female protagonist who remains alive at the end of the film, after the other characters have been killed, when she is usually placed in the right position. ‘face the killer.
The Girls’ Ultimate Support Group revolves around Lynnette Tarkington, a latest real-life girl who is still haunted by the brutal encounter she barely survived as a teenager. Decades later, she and a group of women who have lived through similar traumas meet each week to try to get their lives back on track.
However, when one of them goes missing, they realize that someone is trying to finish the job started by their original tormentors.
When I was younger, my mom wouldn’t allow me to watch horror movies. The closest I got was feverishly reading the VHS jacket covers in the video rental section of our local supermarket. I have done a lot of catching up since, but there is still a lot that I haven’t seen yet.
The reason I am highlighting this is because the more you know about horror media, the better. Final Support Group for Girls bed. That being said, the characters and the surrounding narrative are constructed so fantastically that there is still a very enjoyable story to experience, even for those who only have a fleeting familiarity with the genre. I know there are references that I missed, but I’ve always loved every part of this book, starting with the characters.
Each woman in the group is a pretty obvious tribute to one last female icon. In this story, however, we get a raw and powerful look at how they have lived since their survival. There are the predictable descents into depression, drug addiction, and agoraphobia, which are explored with Hendrix’s unique knack for making you want to laugh and cry at the same time. But we also see examples of women appropriating their trauma in a variety of ways: turning it into career / fame, deciding to live a normal life, or taking a completely different (and horrible) direction.
As for the need for familiarity with horror, it’s best shown in one of my favorite scenes from the novel. As Lynette describes the terror experienced by one of her group members, it quickly becomes clear that she is describing a composite of scenes from a well-known horror / franchise film. In this tale, however, the downed people aren’t just slasher fodder. The character is consumed with guilt for how they died to protect her. It’s a passage that could quite stand on its own, but works even better if you’ve ever watched the same events unfold from your own detached perspective.
As far as storytelling goes, Hendrix takes many of the genre’s more worn-out tropes and remixes them into a fresh, exciting, and (above all) chilling story. There are also some really powerful moments between the thrills that make it impossible not to invest deeply in the characters – not just their fate, but their well-being.
Between many chapters, we get a glimpse into the world of the novel via interviews, newspaper articles, movie reviews, and many other forms of fictional media that still manage to feel real. These sections are often played for a laugh (especially for horror fans), but some are almost as powerful as Hendrix’s narrative passages.
All of these factors take the reader on a journey that leaves you guessing at both the plot and the characters that lead it to the novel’s explosive and utterly satisfying conclusion.
What does not work
Remember when I said even people who only have fleeting knowledge of horror media will appreciate The Girls’ Ultimate Support Group? Well if you don’t, it’s still a good story, but there are some sections that might not make sense.
For example: one of my absolute favorite scenes involves a character that mirrors Nancy Thompson, the final (ish) daughter of the Freddy Krueger franchise. While I still haven’t seen any of these movies, there was a creepy kid in my fourth grade class who gave us detailed plot details for each movie. Combined with my VHS jacket reading and Wikipedia curiosity as an adult, I knew enough to not only realize how the scene in The Girls’ Ultimate Support Group was, but why it made perfect sense.
However, if you don’t know anything about the franchise, you will be completely lost.
There are a few other scenes like this in the book, although it’s nowhere near enough to ruin things. In fact, the story is so good / well written that I would have no problem recommending it to someone who is not a horror fan. They just won’t get as much out of the story as what was put into it.
The first book I read by Grady Hendrix was The exorcism of my best friend. Although he enjoys his work immensely since then, it has continued to remain not only my favorite book he wrote, but one of my favorite novels of all time.
I went back and forth to see if I liked this one better and still can’t make a decision. I may never be able to choose, but I certainly know what I will recommend to anyone looking for a spooky fall read. The Girls’ Ultimate Support Group takes the B-movie horror material we love and gives it top-notch narrative and character work, all without ever snubbing the genre.
I still have no idea how HBO is going to scale this one up in series (especially with all of the different franchises referenced), but if they can do half the job Hendrix did in creating the novel, so it’s gonna be phenomenal. In the meantime, make sure you can be one of those insufferable “I Read The Book First” people and add this truly stunning tale to your Halloween reading list.
‘The Final Girl Support Group’ is Grady Hendrix at the top of her game
Grady Hendrix’s “The Last Girl Support Group”
Hendrix’s latest novel features the author at the top of his game with wonderful media commentary on pop culture / horror.
The gripping plot is brought to life by even better characters who force you to invest in both their fate and their well-being.
The tale is gripping, funny, and (most importantly) scary, while also being filled with some truly powerful moments.
The novel takes many of horror media’s most worn-out tropes and remixes them into a fantasy tale without ever snubbing the genre.
If you don’t know anything about horror movies then there are a few sections that won’t make much sense.
Do you like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comic book journalism by becoming a sponsor today! Along with our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, access our vibrant Discord community of customers and staff, receive commercial paperbacks sent to your home each month, and much more. Click the button below to get started!