Book Review: I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire C. Holland

By Jordan Gerdes

When I first heard of Claire C. Holland’s “I Am Not Your Final Girl”, I was highly intrigued. A collection of horror-inspired poetry revolving around famous final girls sounded amazing. I quickly ripped through the pages upon receiving it, devouring the book in a single sitting. And I sat back, absolutely blown away by the power of the words on those fifty or so pages. Holland curates a collection of women that have persisted. Women that have faced abuse, possession and death at the hands of monsters in the shape of men. These short poems are tales of women that have refused to resign to their fate. There is despair in these words, but there is also hope, and promise, and power in these words.

In her segment on Sally from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Holland writes ,

“There is nothing in this world

like realizing

you’re going to live

and not being sure

you can”

Holland finds a way to not only bring these women to life, but finds a way to show their fight is not over once the credits roll. Sally doesn’t ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Sally’s fight is sadly just beginning. Holland’s thesis running between all these lines of poetry remains the same. “Enough is enough.” She writes for Thomasin from The Witch (2015) ,

“She is so tired of waiting. She won’t do it anymore.”

These are gut wrenching, heartbreaking battle cries laid out across every page. In a world that is just beginning to listen to survivors, this collection is poignant and ever so important. The book is split into four distinct sections, Assault, Possession, Destruction, and Transformation. Each section features a number of final girls that fit the motif, with those girls becoming more powerful as the collection progresses. You can sense the exasperation from Holland and her cast of final girls, having to explain these tragedies over and over, like ghosts reliving their traumas. She writes in Laurie, Halloween (1978):

Tell me why I should mythologize

this. Let his shape grow larger

than the women crouched

with coat hangers, with makeshift

daggers as sturdy as their hearts?

Something can be vulnerable

and powerful at once, but

you cannot understand this,

and I have grown so weary trying

to explain.

On the surface level, she has turned classic films into some amazing imagery. But spend even one second to linger on any of these pieces and you will see the fight, the pain, and the anguish that these women are in the midst of. You will see how survivors are born of tragedy, but that tragedy does not define them, does not own them, and sure as hell does not dictate their fates. Most of all, you will see that they are not alone. Holland has curated the patron saints of tragedy and trauma, and they fight for all survivors.

I highly recommend this book. It is a quick read, but one I have re read multiple times this past year, just now finding the words to try and do it justice.

“I Am Not Your Final Girl” can be purchased on Amazon and stay tuned tomorrow for our Freak Friday interview with author Claire C. Holland.

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