Review: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones


Rating: 9.5/10

Synopsis

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, Stephen Graham Jones.

Jade feels like she’s trapped in a slasher film as tourists go missing and the tension between her community and the celebrity newcomers to the Indian Lake shore heads towards a tipping point, when she feels the killer will rise. Jade watches as the small town she knows and loves begins to head towards catastrophe as yachts compete with canoes and the celebrity rich change the landscape of what was designated park lands to develop what they call Terra Nova.

This new novel from the acclaimed author of The Only Good Indians and “literary master” (Tananarive Due, author of The Good House) Stephen Graham Jones, is a must-read, exploring the changing landscape of the West through his particular voice of sharp humor and prophetic violence that will have you cheering for the American heroine we need.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of My Heart is a Chainsaw for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

My Heart is a Chainsaw is a laudable successor to Jones’s most recent work, The Only Good Indians. It is both harrowing and heart-wrenching in its execution, further cementing Jones as my go-to in horror literature. If you are a slasher fan in any sense of the word, this is a can’t-miss.

You have all probably heard me gushing about The Only Good Indians for almost two (2) years now. I read it nine (9) months before its release date – 7/14/20 – and still find opportunities to bring it up in conversation. It was a genre-changing read for me, and from what I can tell, the same can be said for many others. It narrowly missed out of being my #1 read in 2019 behind Black Crouch’s Recursion but I keep mulling it over and wonder if I made a mistake.

Now, we have the upcoming release of My Heart is a Chainsaw – 8/31/21. You can be assured that I will be doing the same thing this go-round.

This being written by Jones was enough for me to move it up the TBR pile, but this bit from the synopsis: “Jade feels like she’s trapped in a slasher film…” instantaneously hooked me. I cannot say that I am at the same level as Jade in slasher trivia (not by many, many miles), but I am always up for re-watches if the mood suites. Her knowledge of the genre mixed with how certain events align to fulfill her “prophecy” feels to me like something nostalgic horror fans would fall head over heels for, the way video game/cult classic film fans fell for Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (though Jones doesn’t really hit you over the head with the references, and then continue to bash your bloody corpse).

While there are moments where Jade has these internal conversations with herself that just ooze slasher references, Jones sandwiches “Slasher 101” chapters throughout the main storyline to further hammer home the love. This is all and well, but there is so much left to unpack here: gentrification, dredging up the past (literally), the pain we force ourselves to forget, our true purpose in live, etc. There is a lake-sized load of things I want to unload and comb through, but since I am one of the first to have read and reviewed this title, I’ll wait for some others to join the club.

If you enjoy slashers or books about final girls or your horror mixed with hard-cry emotion but with a little humor, this book… this book is what you have always been looking for. Jade is such a compelling character, though she may take a little warming up to in the onset. While there are secondary characters that play significant roles throughout the novel, she is the absolutely focal point and deservedly so.

Sort of a P.S. – I know Grady Hendrix also has a final-girl novel coming up, The Final Girl Support Group (7/13/21), which I am now looking even MORE forward to having finished this title.

Feels like 2021 is the year of the Final Girl and I AM HERE FOR IT.

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