Stephen Graham Jones’ latest love letter to final girls and the slasher genre, My Heart is a Chainsaw, has been on my mind for what feels like a year, ever since I heard the title and started seeing teasers for it. The title is what really burned itself into me before I even read a single word.
See, the main character, Jade Daniels, is every slasher fan out there, myself included. And without even knowing who Jade was or what the book was about, I knew with a title like that it could only be about one thing:
The love of the blade, the horror, the chainsaw.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book in a day, but there is a rambling flow to Jones’ writing and Jade’s voice that makes My Heart is a Chainsaw a fast and thrilling read. I found myself so caught up at times that I’d need to go back to re-read sections to figure out exactly what happened and to who and why it matters, because it all matters in the end.
But let’s go back to the beginning, to what the story’s about, to what Jade Daniels is all about. My Heart is a Chainsaw centers around a seventeen-year-old girl, Jade, obsessed with/in love with/clinging to slasher movies so much so that she wishes her small Idaho town would become a slasher movie. But then bodies begin to drop, and a final girl, killer not too far behind, appears to answer Jade’s wishes. But real-life slashers come with more than just bodies and screams. There’s real horror attached to them, a horror that Jade herself must battle against. And these battles delve into very dark and heartbreaking territory.
If you’re a slasher fan, you’ll love this book, but if you’re a slasher fan who’s seen all the classics, remakes, documentaries, then My Heart is a Chainsaw will be your slasher anthem. Jones shows his love for and expertise in the history of the genre on the page through Jade’s breadth and depth of knowledge into all things slasher. This includes interstitial chapters written as Jade’s school reports, all of which concern the slasher genre, while also giving readers a crash course in how Jade sees the world–or has been made to see the world.
This is where I come to my love of Jones’ writing, something that touches each of his books.
Reading Jones is a masterclass in voice. Though the novel is in the third person, Jade’s voice bleeds through My Heart is a Chainsaw and saturates it, almost frighteningly so. The reader is forced down the dark path of her mind. But it doesn’t detract from the serious, sometimes fatherly, narrative voice that pops up from time to time to remind the readers that this is a high schooler, a teen in peril. And no matter how much she knows, how much she wishes, the real world is a lot scarier than a slasher flick.
There were moments in this book, especially near the end, where Jade’s internal monologue went on for what felt like almost too long. However, as I said, Jade is so fully realized as a character that the pages of monologue during crucial scenes didn’t bother me as much as they might’ve in another book. Instead, these passages racheted up my anticipation to the point where I was tempted to skip ahead.
But you don’t just skip over Stephen Graham Jones.
So, I didn’t. I read every word, sometimes even multiple times, so that I could laugh one more time, grab my chest one more time, or groan at how awful someone or something was before hurtling forward into whatever Jade plunged into next with her eyes wide open.
When every conclusion was met during the climax, the events and moments started getting a bit cluttered, but when the moments hit, they hit well and didn’t stop until the very end. I’ll keep My Heart is a Chainsaw close to me for a long time, suggesting it to every slasher fan I know.
Content warnings for My Heart is a Chainsaw: sexual assault