REVIEW: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

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.  “Horror’s not a symptom, it’s a love affair.” 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. “My heart is a chainsaw, yes, but you’re the one who starts it.” 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: (that’s this place) (@SGJ72) Website