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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

My Heart Is a Chainsaw, Stephen Graham Jones: An All-the-Stars Review


I have too much to say about this book, but bear with me as I meander through some of my more pressing reflections.

SGJ is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. The Only Good Indians was the very first book I was approved for on NetGalley (and won a Stoker award a few days ago; I highly recommend if you haven't picked that one up yet, do so), and his work has held a special place in my heart since. I was thrilled to be approved for this and quickly dove in.

In the last weeks of her senior year of high school, Jade grows increasingly anxious about what she'll do with her life. Terra Nova, a millionaire neighborhood is being constructed across the lake, which doesn't help her opinions about her living situation, her family, or her own goals. But she loves slashers, and when Letha Mondragon walks into the bathroom one day, Jade knows she's met the Final Girl--the one who will outlast them all. She's convinced a slasher is coming for her town, and Jade feels a purpose like never before. I would give this a hundred stars if I could. To start, Jones' writing is spectacular. The alternating essay analyses of the slasher genre juxtaposed with Jade's internal reflection and attempts to connect with Letha are well-structured, interesting, and nuanced. Jade is a wonderful protagonist. Admittedly, she's nothing like a Final Girl, but that only works to her advantage. We get a thorough understanding of her circumstances, and because of that, her passion for slashers becomes that much more important. That's one of the things I love best about this book. It's not just a campy, meta, ode to slashers. It is an in-depth study of slashers, don't get me wrong, but it's not just a break down of what sets the genre apart from the rest of horror. One of the first papers I remember writing in college was focused on why people love horror, and Jones uses that as a jumping off point, giving us this wonderful, flawed, powerful character who isn't just creepy or strange because she loves slashers. There's so much more beneath the surface. The psychology of horror isn't just the blood and gore, but for Jade--for many readers who will relate to her struggles--it is a belief that there is a bigger purpose, an order, or a meaning that may be lacking in everyday life. Additionally, there is a wonderful layer of mythology, legend, and oral storytelling tradition here, adding to Jade's expert cinematic knowledge of slashers--all of which ties into the larger themes at play of identity, community, and spirituality. Jade's Native American identity is pivotal to her understanding of her place in the slasher, and yet, Jones breaks the tropes and creates these beautiful moments of hope and symbolism. No spoilers, of course, but this is a book for everyone who has ever felt alone, out of place, or outcast. This is a book about finding courage and confidence, about forging your own path, and I loved every freaking page of Jade's journey. One final note, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the moments of pure terror. There's one scene in particular that knocked the breath out of me. I had to put it down because it was *that good*. Jones' writing is as vivid and cinematic as one of Jade's movies, and I think many readers are going to love these moments the best. Overall, My Heart Is a Chainsaw is a beautiful, terrifying, gritty story that you absolutely do not want to miss. Huge thanks to Gallery and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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