My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones, 4 Stars

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.

Praise for My Heart is a Chainsaw:

A heartbreakingly beautiful story about hope and survival, grappling with themes of cultural identity, family, and traditions.” Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Subtly funny and wry at turns, this novel will give you nightmares. The good kind, of course.”—Buzzfeed

“This novel works both as a terrifying chiller and as biting commentary on the existential crisis of indigenous peoples adapting to a culture that is bent on eradicating theirs.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

My Review:

Somehow I’ve made it this far in life without reading a book by Stephen Graham Jones, and I’m baffled. Because he is the real deal. My Heart is a Chainsaw is not only an engaging story about a small-town girl who has never and will never fit in, but it is a love letter for anyone who is obsessed with slasher movies.

Jade not only doesn’t fit in at school, but she painfully stands out. She’s half-Indian who lives with her alcoholic good for nothing father, and is estranged from her mom who although they don’t talk, works at the Dollar store downtown the street from her school. She has no friends, no allies, and no hope for the future. But she does have horror movies and an imagination that has figured out exactly how and when her town will get taken out by a masked murderer.

I really can’t share much more without giving it away. Just know that My Heart is a Chainsaw is a masterpiece and likely to be a valuable edition to any horror movie aficionado’s bookshelf. Special thanks to Netgalley and Simon an Schuster for an advanced e-galley in exchange for my honest review. This one is out August 31. Get your copy.


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