I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
Published by titan Books on August 31, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Thrillers, Supernatural, Indigenous
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones.
“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”
Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called “a literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange.
Alma Katsu calls My Heart Is a Chainsaw “a homage to slasher films that also manages to defy and transcend genre.” On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.
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.
My Heart is a Chainsaw is the latest release from Stephen Graham Jones and it brought me straight out of a reading funk. It’s a story that projected me back to the golden age of horror and opened up a new area in my brain – the area where all evil lurks, the knowledge about different slashers and killers coming to the fray. Jones should be protected, his novels are full of heartache, angst, and gore, I don’t think he can write a bad novel and I’m quite happy to die on that mountain.
My Heart is a Chainsaw is a love letter to the height of 80’s slashers flicks. With numerous references to Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th, we even have talk of the saw franchise. These movies are the life passion of the protagonist, Jade. She is a troubled character and takes comfort in the fictional bad guys rather than face the real-life bad guy she needs to run from. I connected with Jade and with Jones’s excellent prose he connected a bridge between us. Jade is strong but fragile and we are given clues to an event that happened on the lake that has forever changed her.
Jade is convinced that a slasher cycle is about to begin in her small Idaho town. The seventeen-year-old half-Indian girl tries to convince her history teacher, the town cop, an incomer, Letha Mondragon, who Jade is convinced will be the final girl…we all know the story behind final girls, right? Are the events all in Jade’s delusional mind or is there a killer that wants to spill blood? She must train Letha in the art of being a final girl…will she listen or treat Jade like everyone else…a social outcast? What Letha discovers instead will break your heart.
The prologue is the kick-started engine to a story that is happy to fuck you up, question your logic and sharpen that machete. Something chilling happens to a Scandinavian couple and you just know that starting pistol is going to come back to haunt everyone. The story is a slow burn, we get to witness Jade’s character flaws and strengths, how she views the world around her and how it views her, and finally her paper on Slasher 101. She fills in the gaps anyone might have on the Slasher genre and does so with passion and vigour.
My Heart is a Chainsaw is a mesmerising gorefest. Jones balancing on the precipice between tantalising storytelling and emotional trauma and has the balance perfect.
ABOUT STEPHEN GRAHAM JONES
Stephen Graham Jones is the NYT bestselling author of nearly thirty novels and collections, and there’s some novellas and comic books in there as well. Most recent are The Only Good Indians and My Heart is a Chainsaw. Up next is Don’t Fear the Reaper. Stephen lives and teaches in Boulder, Colorado.
That’s usually plenty, and the right size for magazines and journals and sites, I think. If I’m needing to duck into a program or schedule or something, though, then those tend to be about this size:
Stephen Graham Jones is the NYT bestselling author of nearly thirty novels and collections, and there’s some novellas and comic books in there as well. Stephen’s been an NEA recipient, has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, the LA Times Ray Bradbury Prize, the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, WLA’s Distinguished Achievement Award, ALA’s RUSA Award and Alex Award, three Bram Stoker Awards, two Shirley Jackson Awards, five This is Horror Awards, and he’s been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy Award. He’s also made Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels, and is the guy who wrote Mongrels, The Only Good Indians, and My Heart is a Chainsaw. Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado.
Feel free to mix & match/cutnpaste these two into some Frankenstein-bio, too, of course. Or completely make one up. I’m like John Locke: all possible bios pretty much apply, sure. And, if you need to list where I teach:
- University of Colorado at Boulder
- University of California Riverside — Palm Desert
- Institute of American Indian Arts (very occasionally)
And if you need a link for me, either/both of these’ll do: