TITLE: My Heart is a Chainsaw
AUTHOR: Stephen Graham Jones
AGE RANGE: Adult
PUBLISHER: Gallery / Saga Press
In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for.
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.
When you’re wearing slasher goggles, everything can look like a slasher.
It’s been about 3 weeks since I finished reading My Heart is a Chainsaw, and I’ve thought about Jade Daniels every damn day since then. I’ve been putting off writing this review because so many things about this story hit too hard and processing those feelings enough to put them into words gives me an ache in my chest that’s impossible to ignore, but I don’t think that’s going away any time soon, and this book deserves every rave review it’s ever gotten, so I’ll add mine to the pile.
Horror’s not a symptom, it’s a love affair.
Jade Daniels is more or less a total outcast, but whose fault that is depends on who you ask. She’s angry, unapproachable, and doesn’t have a lot of fucks left to give—she saves most of those for her passion for horror films. She’s the “weird slasher girl” in town that most of the other teens steer clear of, maybe because she freaks them out a little or maybe just because it’s hard to have a friendship with someone you have nothing in common with (after all, with this much love for slashers, Jade doesn’t have room for much else, does she?).
Jade Daniels felt like looking into a mirror of myself as a kid, bringing me back to all the times where I was the “weird horror girl” that nobody could relate to (and the people who tried, didn’t try for long, because nobody really wanted to spend the night with the girl who could relate everything in life to one bloody kill scene or another). I may have found a solid horror community here on the internet (and I’ve always had my gorehound mom!), but that didn’t happen for me until a few years ago, and I had a nice, full two decades or more of being bullied for my horror fanaticism leading up to that. I’m rambling, but my point is that I can understand why Jade doesn’t work for everyone, but she’s everything I never knew I needed so damn badly in a character and she won my whole fucking heart in just a few pages.
She’s a gorehound, a horror fiend, the more brutal the better, bring it on, faster, pussycat, kill kill kill, but that’s all on-screen. And at some level she never forgets that all the blood’s corn syrup.
Of course, it wouldn’t be such a great opportunity to have a slasher-obsessed main character if we didn’t also have these downright terrifyingly familiar events happening around her. There are so many moments that feel straight out of a slasher film to Jade, but as a reader, I constantly found myself wondering if someone was really out to get the unsuspecting folks of Proofrock, or if we were just seeing things through Jade’s “slasher goggles”. (Of course, I won’t spoil the answer to that question—I’d rather you read this gorgeous book for yourself.)
“Some girls just don’t know how to die.”
But I can’t talk about just the horror elements, because what really hammered this story so thoroughly into my heart wasn’t just how much I loved Jade—it was also the exploration of trauma, and the shitty treatment that Native people receive every day, and the ways we find refuge from our pain, sometimes in places that seem unusual to those around us.
My heart breaks a little more every time I think about the final few paragraphs of this book (again, no spoilers, but it’s one of the best endings I’ve ever read), and at the end of the day, I wish so badly that I could pull Jade right out of this book and be the big sister she’s never had. As it is, I’ll just have to keep aching over how much I adore this book while I wait on the sequel, and I’ll keep raving about it to anyone who will listen, because My Heart is a Chainsaw instantly cemented itself as one of my favorite horror books of all time.
WARNINGS (click to expand):
violence, gore, death, drowning, attempted suicide, self-harm, grief, abandonment, sexual abuse, rape, incest, pedophilia, sexual harassment, racism, misogyny
Jade and multiple side characters are Native American; Letha is Black
— destiny ♥