Review: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

I really do try not to fangirl about books, since I’m supposed to be too old for that now, but it’s a struggle when favorite authors give us something new and it’s just exactly what I need, right when I need it. When I heard that Mr. Stephen Graham Jones was publishing a new book this fall, and then when I read the blurb… fangirling occurred.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

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.

I’m not going in to any more detail than that about this excellent book—you really need to experience it for yourself.

My thoughts

My Heart is a Chainsaw is a lot of things. It’s definitely a horror novel, so if you’re coming for the bloody, violent gore of a classic masked-killer movie, you will not be disappointed. It’s also a coming-of-age story, wherein our neglected and forgotten loner heroine, Jade, has used her passion for and encyclopedic knowledge of slasher movies to help herself deal with an unresolved trauma. Somehow, despite all the gore and violent death, and the loneliness and abuse of Jade’s background, this book is a hopeful story of survival and triumph. That’s not to say everything is hearts and flowers wrapped up nicely with a bow at the end… this is not that kind of novel.

Jones is obviously a fan of the slasher genre, and that’s on full display here. In a series of papers she wrote for school, Jade takes us through all the basics for so many slasher films. I loved the references to the movies I grew up watching (from between my fingers, because I was a total weenie). Like a great slasher movie, just when you think you’ve got My Heart is a Chainsaw figured out, something happens to show you how very wrong you were.

Jade is a fantastic character: she’s complex and challenging, frustrating and funny, and you can’t help but root for her to get the allies/help/revenge she deserves. Stephen Graham Jones is just so good… the story is perfectly paced, beautifully written, bloody, scary, surprising and heartbreaking. I was thrilled last week when Jones announced that there will be a sequel next year.

Don’t be scared… Read this book!


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