My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

 "Horror is not a symptom. It's a love affair."

As Texas finally begins to trade the insufferable summer heat for the cooler weather of fall, I'm finding myself craving a good scare. I've always had a soft spot for the horror genre. There's just something about the thrill of being genuinely terrified by the words on a page that I find exhilarating. The chilled air and the promise of spooky thrills from a master horror author like Stephen Graham Jones were too much of a good thing for me to pass up when his publisher offered me a copy of his latest novel My Heart Is a Chainsaw. I was first introduced to the writing of Jones through his last novel The Only Good Indians. While I had a pretty mixed reaction to the characters in that work, I couldn't deny the ritualistic brutality of the horror. That story unsettled me in a way that still gives me chills when I think about it. Naturally, I was anticipating that this new novel would do the same. 

Being a teenager is tough. For Jade Daniels, a senior in high school, her young adulthood has been downright unbearable. Her mom left her dad many years ago, and Jade only sees her when she visits the local dollar store where her mother works. Jade lives with her father, an abusive alcoholic who spends most nights in a drunken haze reliving the glory days with his best friend. At school, things aren't much better. She's an outcast, more comfortable on her own than with any friends. It isn't like there are people lining up to befriend her anyway. Her teachers are equally uninterested. Jade is on the path to dropping out of her final year in school. It's safe to say that things are pretty terrible. 

Jade finds refuge in an unlikely source. She's obsessed with horror movies. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the genre knows no bounds, but she has taken a special fascination in those classic slashers that see a masked villain exact revenge on the place and people who did them wrong. So thorough is her knowledge that Jade has decided to submit an essay on the lurid history of her own town as a last-ditch effort to successfully graduate from high school. She narrates her own story, corroborated by a cast of eccentric locals, in the same style as the horror films she reveres. But Jade isn't prepared for what is about to come next. She's about to find herself and her town in the center of a very real horror story. 

My Heart Is a Chainsaw is a love story of sorts. Not in the traditional sense, of course, but as an ode to the kinds of slasher movies of the '70s and '80s that clearly influenced Stephen Graham Jones's affinity for the genre. I imagine that the character Jade's own reverence for those horror classics mirrors that of the author who brought her to life. Like the films that are referenced, this work balances gore and humor while driving home a deeper message around family, community, and revenge. I found Jade to really be an acquired taste. At first, she was kind of annoying, seemingly bringing much of her problems on herself. But as I got to know the character more, I was really moved by her journey through both her personal problems and the horror story that unfolded around her. At times, My Heart Is a Chainsaw slows to a crawl, especially as Jones devotes much of the middle section to character development. Fortunately, the slower parts pay off as the final act plays out in gruesome glory. Stephen Graham Jones has written a really fun novel that works as both a thrilling horror story and an homage to the films that inspired it. It was the perfect read to kick off the fall season. 

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads

(2021, 34)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 21, 2021 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

20 Responses to “My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones”

  1. I could do with a good scare too, tis the fall

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm very much in the mood for spooky reads right now. I've already got several others lined up to read soon.

      Delete
  2. I love that Jade is a horror film afficianado! And fall is the perfect time of year for a good scary book. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Her character really grew to be such a delight, especially the way she mixed in her knowledge of the genre!

      Delete
  3. Fall makes me think of horror movies and books too! This reminds me of Final Girls Support Group in the way that it features the 80s slasher films.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really enjoyed Final Girl Support Group too, and I think your comparison is apt. I will admit that I think this narrative worked a smidge better though.

      Delete
  4. Well this sounds interesting. I love that it's a sort of homage to the old slasher/horror films.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It doesn't require you to know too much about those movies, but it certainly rewards you if you do!

      Delete
  5. I love Horror movies too. This sounds interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The older I get, the wimpier I get, and the less I can handle horror. I still enjoy a good ghost story or a Gothic thriller, as long as they're just scary and not terrifying. This one sounds like the latter!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know a slasher isn't for everyone, but I do agree that a ghost story is always welcome!

      Delete
  7. I have this one to read. I will have to remember that there are some slower parts.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Glad you got the gruesome glory :) I too am looking to thrillers and horror as the weather turns.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's something about a cool breeze and a creepy thriller that I just can't pass up!

      Delete
  9. I'm not typically a seasonal reader but I have been drawn to spookier reads lately. This sounds great.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm really into spooky reads right now, so I'll probably become too saturated in them and have to change things up quickly haha.

      Delete
  10. I can't remember if you've read The Final Girls Support Group or not, but I am pretty sure yes. My brain is just mush right now. If so, how do compare the way the two novels pay homage to slasher flicks from the earlier eras? I loved how Final Girls referenced them, because those to me are the truly great horror films. I requested this one from the library!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Final Girls Support Group was more of a direct inspiration of those films while this one references them through the character without seeming to copy the plot. Hopefully that makes sense haha.

      Delete

Powered by Blogger.