Review: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

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Synopsis:

In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges… a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body.

My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

Review:

Originally published at www.mysteryandsuspense.com

Stephen Graham Jones has been publishing for twenty years, and he has been highly revered in the horror community as one of the greatest living horror writers. Last year was a good year for him. He published the novel The Only Good Indians in July and the novella Night of the Mannequins in September.

He won both of the 2020 Shirley Jackson Awards for novel and novella with these two. His newest novel, My Heart is a Chainsaw, is highly anticipated, and there are some huge expectations for many readers based on this success.

My Heart is a Chainsaw does not disappoint. The novel surrounds Jade, an half-indigenous outsider at school with an absent mother and a drunk father. She does what she can to survive, which is to delve into her love of slasher movies and be convinced that her small town of Proofrock, Idaho is going to be the victim of a huge massacre. There are several settings in this novel that can be seen as old sets from slasher movies. Proofrock is on one side of Indian Lake, which might have a Lake Witch, the other side is an old summer camp called Camp Blood, and there is Terra Nova, a rich suburb that is still in construction on top of what very well might be a Native American burial ground. Jade is convinced that this is the perfect recipe for bad things to happen. Throughout the novel, she is trying to warn the town, trying to get someone to listen to her, and getting in trouble for her efforts. She latches onto Letha Mondragon, one of the new girls from Terra Nova, and knows that she is going to be the final girl. Unfortunately when she tells Letha this, she gets into even more trouble with the police. In the end, Jade does not give up; she needs to warn everyone of the impending doom the town is going to face, even though most of her insights are based on slasher movie logic and not reality. 

Stephen Graham Jones loves slashers, and he pours this love into Jade. He has been on many podcasts talking about his love for the slasher genre, and when Jade talks about slashers in this book, she does not only talk about the big ones, like Friday the 13th and Halloween. She describes some deep cuts, like Just Before Dawn and A Bay of Blood. There are also essays written from Jade to her history teacher about the rules and history of the slasher genre and how it fits into the life and events of Proofrock. These rules and history of slasher segments are things I have heard come from Stephen Graham Jones himself during some podcasts, so listening to Jade, I feel like I am also listening to the author. He has poured his love into this character, and it really shows.

My Heart is a Chainsaw is a novel for horror fans. Jade is written as a horror fan that many horror fans can understand. Many fans were outsiders through high school or do not have a good home life, so many use a world of horror movies and fantasy as coping mechanisms. Jade might be a little more obsessed than many horror fans, but the sentiment is there. Horror is a way that many people have coped with a tough life or tough times. Stephen Graham Jones makes his character someone that many horror fans can relate to, and in the end,  Stephen Graham Jones is not only writing a horror novel but he is writing a love letter to a genre.  

I received this as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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