I received a digital advance copy of My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones via NetGalley. My Heart is a Chainsaw is scheduled for release on August 31, 2021.
My Heart is a Chainsaw is an ode to the slasher flicks of the 70s to 90s. It centers on a young woman who focuses her thoughts and energy on horror films rather than directing any of her focus to the issues in her own life. Below the slasher veneer, this is really the story of a woman finding her own power in the midst of the real-life horror unfolding around her.
Jones’ absolute love of slasher flicks shines through every moment of this novel, projected primarily through the main character. Jade lives and breathes these movies, even using them in assignments for her teacher. She is so obsessed with the films that she begins to see them in events around her, convinced that a slasher is active in her town and the new neighborhood developing across the lake. This obsession is a shield that Jade uses to hide herself from non-movie events in her past and present.
Jade is such a well-developed character in this novel, that I stopped seeing her as a character, instead seeing her as a real person. She has goals (of a sort), but is drowning in both events happening to her and her own deeply flawed interactions with the world around her. She is a beautiful disaster and I love her.
The story is set in Proofrock, a small town on the shore of Indian Lake. Around the lake, we also find an abandoned summer camp and a new (very fancy-pants) neighborhood that is being developed. This setting helped support all of the slasher flick vibes (summer camp on a lake anyone?) as well as gave Jones a place to address both colonialism and gentrification.
Throughout the novel, Jones weaves together expected slasher tropes, commentary on those tropes, and several deeply important plot threads. I loved what he did here throughout most of the story, but did struggle a bit at the story’s climax. We end up in a specific location (no spoilers) that is unfamiliar to me. I had a difficult time following the narration of what exactly was happening in the climactic moments of the story.
In the end, this slight confusion on my part did not matter. My Heart is a Chainsaw is a great homage to the slasher flicks Jones loves woven together with the tale of a girl who deserves more than she gets from the world.