My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

Well this book is…different. This is my first foray into Stephen Graham Jones’ writing, and I must say that he is in a league of his own. This is undoubtedly a horror story, but it is also a story about trauma, disassociation and the real-life slice-and-dice monsters who walk among us. I’ll break it down for you like this:

The gist:
Throughout the book, readers are trapped in the mind of deeply troubled 17-year-old girl who stomps angrily through life in coveralls and combat boots whilst telling anyone who’ll listen that the town of Proofrock, Idaho will soon be ravaged by a slash-and-stalk monster. Her mission is to convince the requisite “Final Girl” that she must accept her fate and save the townsfolk from impending doom.

What I liked: I must give the author props for conjuring up such a winning storyline that sings to my soul! Like Jade, I’m a huge fangirl of Freddy Kreuger, Jason Vorhees and Michael Meyers. As you can see in this photo of my sixth-grade self, Freddy was my 80s! I don’t think my sister will ever forgive me for terrifying her at night with my devilish singing of “One-two-Freddy’s coming for you….” So yeah, on that level, Jade was a very relatable character. All the horror movie references gave me great joy, and I bow down to Mister Jones for his doctoral knowledge of the slash-and-stalk genre.

What irked me: Probably the worst thing about this book is being trapped in the mind of a deeply, deeply traumatized teenager who may or may not be completely psychotic. It’s anyone’s guess if her prophecy is real, or if she’s a complete nut job. She went to some dark places that made me rather uncomfortable, which is why it became a bit of a chore getting through this 300-plus tome. I’m not a believer in disclosing trigger warnings in reviews because—hello, spoilers!—but  I will say she dealt with some abuse, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the underlying subtext to her obsession with revenge/justice horror flicks.

The suspense: This book is a sloooooooow burn, so I’m not surprised to see the many DNF reviews on Goodreads. If you’re looking for a fast-paced suspense novel, this isn’t the book for you. Many, many chapters are comprised of Jade’s long-winded soliloquies about the many intricacies of the slash-and-stalk genre. She writes at the level of an Ivy League philosophy professor, which was fascinating to read, but extremely unbelievable considering that she’s just a kid who basically sleepwalks through school on the rare occasions when she isn’t playing hooky. Also, the chapters are long—like novella long—which makes it hard to find a stopping point. Perhaps this is a way for authors to keep readers glued to the pages, but I just couldn’t get myself into that trance-like state until the very end when everything went BANANAS! Long story short, hang in there. You do not want to DNF this thing because the ending is dope!

Thoughts on the characters: I truly felt for Jade, but it got really heavy being inside her mind throughout her journey into the abyss. I feel like this book could’ve been way more interesting if it the chapters shifted narrators—especially since the sideline characters were so interesting! I really needed a break from Jade, and a chapter told by her empathetic history teacher Mr. Holmes would’ve added a nice element to the story. I loved his anti-establishment ethos on life—and how much he adamantly hated the developers encroaching upon Proofrock’s indigenous land. I have to say, the author did a masterful job weaving some subtext to Jade’s revenge/justice horror movie rants. Who knew that those cheap thrill slash-and-stalks could be so existential?

Overall thoughts: This story is a departure from the tried-and-true horror genre storyline, so it’s not for everyone. The dialogue is choppy and disorienting. The narrator is an unreliable mess. The long chapters of overly indulgent horror movie musings bog down the pace. Yet, despite all that, this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read.  And, like I said, stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with a wallop of a climax that will make you think twice about ever attending a movies-in -the-park event.

Useless sidenote: Stephen Graham Jones is extremely handsome, and it gives me a thrill to know that he grew up in Wimberely, Texas!

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