Told at the full-tilt pace of a teen slasher pic, The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones effectively conveys the author’s love and respect for the form. Divided up into very short bites, like a movie is divided into shots of a few seconds each, the story proceeds at a rapid clip, with none of the typical novel’s digressions or introspection. It’s something like 90% dialog, interspersed with tags almost like shorthand, describing character actions.
The slasher is probably one of the most straight-forward, accessible kinds of movies, but this book is told in an experimental style. Others have likened the format to a screenplay, but it’s actually more like an overseeing narrator describing the on-screen action of a film as it happens. It’s a verbal play-by-play, describing shots, character movements, what the camera (and audience) sees and notices. The narrator is well-versed in the actors, directors, references, inside jokes and tropes of slasher films.
This results in a fun, cheeky stream-of-consciousness running description, complete with winking asides from the characters and sometimes also the invisible narrator letting the reader in on any references they might’ve missed. Though the story takes place in the present day, these high school kids are very familiar with cultural touchstones of the 80s (the golden age of the slasher film, as well as the coming-of-age era of the author) so that lines from popular movies and other culture from my own high school years pop up all through the story.
In a sense this is less about literature, in the sense of inward reflection, and more about the kinetic energy of film told in written form. It’s clever, full of attitude, crafted by a person who clearly loves, values and understands slasher films as a genre. The Last Final Girl is a good-natured, energetic gonzo tale, full of winking references, name-dropping and a non-stop barrage of self-reflexive acknowledgment that Jones is in on the joke and he’s enjoying himself in the writing every bit as much as any reader.