Cover Image: My Heart Is a Chainsaw

My Heart Is a Chainsaw

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Member Reviews


Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for allowing me to read this ARC!

Content Warning: death, violence, murder, gore, animal death, rape, misogyny, racism, child sexual abuse. Please keep in mind that all of the content in this book is very graphic.

Jade Daniels has spent all seventeen years of her life in tiny, backwoods Proofrock, Idaho. She's angry, an outcast amongst her peers who spends her time studying horror movies and hoping that an actual slasher will be knocking on their town's door soon. But when a slasher actually arrives in Proofrock, Jade finds herself caught up in all the gore -- and hoping that her knowledge will keep her ahead of the game.

This one was quite the ride. Of course my interest was piqued by the concept, since I'm a big fan of slashers and 80s' horror films, and the thought of a strong, Native heroine was exciting. I've never read anything by Stephen Graham Jones, but I had heard such good things about his previous books that it was enough for me to request this one. Unfortunately, though, it didn't quite all come together for me.

The main problem I had here was that the story itself just ended up being not that compelling. It takes a very long time for us to actually get into the slasher portion of the book, and while those elements are fun, the rest drags in comparison. There's a portion a little more than halfway through where I truly started to enjoy the craziness going on, but the ending left me feeling disappointed and a touch unsatisfied. 

Graham Jones's signature style is very much present, and while he is undoubtedly an accomplished writer, that style simply doesn't work for me. The sentences were overly long, overly complicated, and we spent the majority of our time in Jade's head as she monologues. While this works for some stories, for this one, it instead felt as if we were stuck in one spot for a little too long. There simply wasn't enough happening.

I do want to make a point of saying that I enjoyed Jade's characterization, and that it's refreshing to watch her go through the world with righteous anger. The rest of the cast is a bit one-dimensional, attempts at changing up horror film tropes and archetypes. It's clear that Graham Jones is trying to subvert our expectations, but sadly, the execution falls a bit flat. There's more that should be discussed here, particularly about Jade's background, but I can't go into too much without spoiling everything. Let's just say that there are some tropes that should be retired.

All in all, this one just wasn't for me. But, if you're a fan of Graham Jones's previous works, I have a feeling you'll enjoy this one. Horror fans should also give it a go, because once the slasher gets going, there's quite a bit of bloody fun!
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Readability: ★★★☆☆
Immersion: ★★☆☆☆
Character Depth: ★★★★☆
Originality/Innovation: ★★★★☆
The Message: ★★★☆☆

Total Stars: ★★★☆☆

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones is a horror novel about horror movies – and it is a unique adventure for horror movie lovers. Lovers of Hitchcock, Final Destination, Scream, Friday the 13th, etc., will be swept away. Thank you, Stephen Graham Jones, Gallery/Saga Press, and NetGalley, for this e-ARC exchange for an unbiased review.

This novel begins with an eerie meet cue between a monster and some unfortunate tourists – I immediately was immersed into the story and made sure to leave an extra light on while reading before bed. We are swiftly introduced to Jade, a “half-Indian outcast” who has a passion for all things horror film-related. Stephen Graham Jones gives us a wonderfully deep character, and I loved Jade and rooted for her the whole time. 

After the intro, the novel does begin to crawl – initially. This is a slow-burn novel that builds to the wonderfully gory ending – and it is probably less slow for those who love or at least have watched a variety of noir horror films.

If horror movies aren’t a passion for you like me, then you might feel like you are on the outside trying to fit in. Many of the references are specific to trivia only horror movie lovers would know, and I often thought I was missing an integral part of the story since I didn’t understand the references. A few times, I even stopped to look the factoid up to get a better grip on the story. Even so, the writing is phenomenal, and I was still engrossed in the outcome of the story. 

For readers who love horror movies as much as horror literature – you will be swept away. Others may find this a satisfying read and still enjoy it like myself, without much background, but you too may see that a bit of the story goes over your head.

Read On,
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This novel is so dark and disturbing that it gave me nightmares. It’s also a great piece of fiction written in flawless prose and populated by powerful characters. Just like the author, I’m a fan of slasher movies, so Jade’s constant references to the genre were familiar. She’s a horror junkie who’s seen and analyzed every single slasher film ever made. She’s grown up wishing for a real-life murderer to start a killing spree in her boring town of Proofrock, Idaho. When she meets the perfect candidate for final girl, she knows what’s coming. Or is she just obsessed and borderline insane? Jade is also Indian, as is the author, so her backstory from her cultural perspective is fascinating and heartbreaking. She’s not easy to like, but it’s not hard to root for her, considering the life she’s led and how grim her future looks. I was surprised how a man could get the psychology of a teenage girl so dead-on. I was never that much of an outcast, and I still could relate to some of her issues and attitudes. The last part, which was a little too long and over-the-top, is not for the squeamish, even if, as a slasher fan myself, I couldn’t stop reading. And the ending - wow, just wow. This is a killer book. 
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/Gallery Books!
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Thank you Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to review this book.
I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys slasher films, especially those from the 1980's.  
I myself am not a fan of these films and so I found myself skimming through the bulk of this book.  
I enjoyed the main character of the book mainly for her sense of humor.  That's as far as my enjoyment of this particular book came.  There were just too many instances that went beyond belief.  I just couldn't get past the disbelief of a young girl talking about the possibility of the abuse she encountered as it was presented here.  
I didn't enjoy having to wait for the last few chapters for the horror part of the book to kick in and when it did, it was just one unbelievable thing after another.  Not even having a rich reader's imagination helped to get past this.  
The end of the book gave the reader no closure.
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3 1/2 stars

If you asked me how I felt about My Heart is a Chainsaw when I was at the halfway point, I would have replied I was deeply disappointed due to the excruciatingly slow pace and what seemed to be endless minutiae. But shortly thereafter all those countless details and plot points come together in a crescendo of bloody, gory mayhem and carnage that had me breathlessly wondering who was the killer and more importantly, who was the Final Girl. While I can’t say I loved this like I did with The Only Good Indians, I will say that as I finished this three days ago and it’s still interfering with my sleep, that it’s certainly memorable. I would also agree that calling Stephen Graham Jones “the Jordan Peele of horror literature” is pretty on point.
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While I was not a fan of Stephen Graham Jones' "The Only Good Indian" (DNF), I was still excited about "My Heart Is a Chainsaw". I am so glad that my opinion of "The Only Good Indian" did not deter me from requesting "My Heart Is a Chainsaw". This is the first book in a long time that kept me up well into the night to read just one more chapter, one more page, one more paragraph! Jones's character development was suburb - Jade, Hardy, Tab, Letha. You become invested in the journey and motivation of each character.

Unfortunately, like a good slasher, there was a really slow burn to the ultimate climax. And then....what? The symbolism in the ending (parent protecting child) was understood, but it cheapens the ending. To involve a peripheral character at the very end? To diminish the confidence, the "final girl" characteristics, that are finally found?

Still. An absolutely solid book.
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Thank you NetGalley for the ARC!

I had a hard time with this book. To say it starts out slow is an understatement, the first 10% was good but the next 70-80% was pretty dull. After finishing it I was questioning what the point of so many of the occurrences during the story. 

The “Slasher” articles were interesting and I enjoyed them but almost DNFd this one. Even when hell broke loose I didn’t seem to really care about any of the characters. After it was all said and done I was happy it was over so I could move on to the next one.
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Pays off in the end, but it's a long road to get there. I liked a lot about this book: the opening chapter that grabbed my attention, the extensive cast of interesting characters, the setting within a gentrifying lake town. Jade's headspace is occasionally a challenging place to be in, and her single-minded obsession with how things are supposed to play out due to her extensive slasher film knowledge became a little frustrating at times. My biggest complaint is that the book takes far too long to get going, with the first two-thirds painstakingly setting everything up before the climactic bloodbath finally occurs. Overall, it should provide an enjoyable experience for horror fans who are patient.
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My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones is a well-written and engrossing read with well developed characterizations. Well worth the time spent reading.
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Jade is a girl who loves her slasher movies, not just any old horror, not werewolves and vampires, not ghost stories without structure and rules, just slashers. Slashers act with purpose, they're silent, deadly, and relentless. They can be relied on to arrive just when they're needed and provide more than enough chaos, and Jade knows that her little town, a little run-down lake town called Proofrock, is just dying to have one. See, Jade pays attention, she studies the rules, she knows her Slasher movies, and there are plenty of reasons her town has already got the makings of a slasher story all ready to go if she can just arrange the workings of her life to allow her to pay attention enough. Be ready enough to witness it. All she needs is a final girl and the ability to figure out which of the old stories of her town will pay off-ok, and also finishing out this whole high school thing, and getting her dad to leave her alone. If she can just do that, if she can just make it through long enough to have everything in her life somewhat in order no matter how much everyone else doesn't get it, Jade will have it made- Or so she thinks.

My Heart is a Chainsaw is easily one of my favorite books of the last five years. There's everything here, the joy of a lead character who's genuinely engaging and complex, equally complex and interesting secondary characters with their own narratives, a town with lots of detail and intrigue which we feel like we can slip right into, all the bloody gore slasher fans have been in love with since the seventies, and plot twists and turns that have the reader gleefully following Jade's narrative one minute and emotionally engaged and moved the next. I love nothing better than a book that pulls me in with its narrative and gives me an idea that I know where we're going, then surprises me by taking on a whole new direction or doing a 180 and going somewhere completely counter to my expectations. This book absolutely does everything it set out to do. I really hope people enjoy it as much as I did, especially my fellow horror nerd girls!
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A SOLID four stars for My Heart Is a Chainsaw and honestly, it could be a five star after it’s sat with me for a while. I just finished it and UGH that ending hit me right in the feels, with a steel machete. This story was such a clever take on a slasher story, told through the perspective of a huge slasher fan and observer. This book had the teeth chattering horror scenes that I’ve come to expect from SGJ, but what I didn’t expect was having my heart torn out for the main character. Easily one of my most memorable reads of 2021.
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I LOVED this. A perfect homage to horror lovers and the movies we all obsess over.  Five stars for sure!
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I like horror. 
I do not like slashers. 
So what tempted me to request a book entitled "My Heart is a Chainsaw" full of constant slasher references and gratuitous gore?
That would be the name on the cover: Stephen Graham Jones. Fresh off of potentially the best horror novel of 2020, The Only Good Indians, SGJ returns with a love letter to a genre he clearly worships. In the process, he manages to add nuance, a solid character arc, and a lot of heart to the blood splatters. 

Chainsaw follows high schooler and self described "half-Indian" Jade in the mountain town of Proofrock as she navigates being a slasher-obsessed social outcast with an absent mother, living with her drunken and neglectful father who would rather focus on reliving his own high school glory days with his lecherous friends than provide any sort of care for her. As wealthy American businessmen start descending on Proofrock as their new luxury hometown, Jade, feeling progressively out of place in a changing culture, spends her days reliving her favorite slasher moments and imagining her own part in a real life version of one. When people start winding up dead in Proofrock, Jade believes she's ready, starts reading the signs, and begins searching for her own personal Final Girl to save the day.

The pacing of Chainsaw is a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Starting with a brutal opening involving some tourists in the wrong place at the wrong time, we then move into a slow burn following Jade through her initially humdrum life as progressively stranger and more disturbing details begin surfacing in both the town and in Jade's own personal history. This leads to a non-stop final 30% of the book, where all hell breaks loose and the barriers of reality begin to break down. However, it's here in this bloody and surreal denouement that SGJ pulls the lid back on his true narrative motivation beyond the gore and screaming: the revelatory struggle and eventual triumph of his heroine. 

Jade, to even the most tolerant reader, will initially be a painfully annoying protagonist: borderline neurotic with her constant monologuing about slasher characters and scenes, she's completely unable to listen or connect with any character. She instead renders every situation she's in to the slasher trope she believes it's closest to and inevitably pushes the select group of people who are concerned for her away. She exists in her own sphere and her fellow Proofrock residents are reduced to the stereotypical slasher roles she chooses for them: the sacrificial first victims, the useless adults, the red herring, and of course the Final Girl, who Jade becomes obsessed with "training" to defeat the killer when she finds her candidate. 

It is in the chaos of the final part of the book where the reasons for Jade's neuroses and outlook on life become clear both to the reader and to the character. It is here that the self-described supporting character rises from the crushing darkness (in more ways than one) to claim a measure of triumph over a devastating life. Without revealing too much, the final few paragraphs of this are as absolutely crushing and thought-provoking as anything I can remember recently. Despite all of the horror and blood, it was these paragraphs that kept me up thinking after the lights had dimmed. 

Stephen Graham Jones cleverly uses a horror genre that is often grimly predictable to illustrate how even the most "broken" among us can rise above their tropes and swing a bloody machete to tear down and begin to rebuild themselves. Five stars, he's done it again.

**I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to
Gallery Books**
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I really really wanted to love this book after I heard such amazing things about The Only Good Indians but this one just dragged on and on. There was an info dumb of slasher movie information, which i was looking forward too but it was just TOO much. The plot makes zero sense at all as well.
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this entire book is a love letter to slasher movies and their fans. we all "came for the mayhem, stayed for the massacre."

🪚 it has a very unique voice. we get to see the world from the perspective of a slasher fan who romanticizes everything; the final girl, the trauma of her town, and the characters she meets. like every day is a day in one of her favourite movies.

🪚 the book has two timelines and two mediums: jade's perspective (the present) and jade's history assignments, which are really just slasher essays that explains to the reader all the slasher tropes, terminologies, and famous movies that are paralleled in the story. it's like a cheat sheet to people who want to read the book without watching slashers.

🪚 there's a lot of interesting theories and commentary on slasher movies!

🪚 it has a LOT of powerful moments. it's a way to mirror life's horrors through famous movie tropes. genuinely one of the most important and impactful books i've read. 

now it's time for me to fangirl through out of context quotes so that i don't spoil anything!!!

🪚 "maybe this is why they wear masks, sir. so you won't see them smile."

🪚 "will she, won't she, what?" please i am still crying at this. such a powerful callback.

thank you to netgalley and the publishers for giving me a digital arc in exchange for my honest review!
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Everyone and their brother has reviewed this book, so I’m not adding anything new to the fold. However I will happily add my voice to all the rest in saying that Jones is fun to read—he had all the makings of me hating his work, but I loved it.

I’m generally not a fan of slow burns. The handful of books I’ve reviewed very very poorly have almost all been slow burns that didn’t seem worth the wait. We don’t have that problem here; yes, it is ABSOLUTELY a very slow burn. A few times I huffed in annoyance at yet another page of Jade’s long-winded internal monologues. 

When things kicked into high gear in the last 70% or so though, I was hooked. I actually had to consciously slow down how fast I was reading because I was scared I would miss something, I was that excited to keep the plot going! 

What works the most is the constant guessing of who the killer will end up being, or if there is one at all.

A note of caution: I googled the sentence the teenager shouted at the end of the first chapter and that gave me a very distinct idea about who was going to be our baddie. If you prefer to be surprised, definitely don’t translate it. Hopefully you don’t already know the language. 

It’s a perfect blend of many horror genres: slasher, supernatural, and psychological. It’s a love story to horror movies we grew up watching, and you could feel that love Jones has within the pages. Plus I was happy to see I understood almost every reference! Just gotta fix my knowledge of the seventies movies. 

My only issue is I didn’t love the very very end, but I’m in the minority there so I do recommend the book to try.
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My thanks to Stephen Graham Jones, Gallery and Netgalley.
I don't know what to say about this book. It took 50 to 60% before it even got going. Once it did, I was hooked! But, it was a long start. 
I loved most of the characters. But Jade? She and her single minded obsession made for tough reading. 
The last 30% was good. I just don't believe that any book should take so long to finally get interesting.
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Thank you To NetGalley and Saga Press for this Arc. First off this book was beautiful. Mind-blowing gorgeous writing. Fast-paced anxiety-building plot.   Can you combine slasher horror with comedy and deep character arcs?  If you are Stephan Graham Jones you can. I cannot even remember if a horror novel ever made me cry before. On one page you are laughing and then your heartbreaks. Jade is a complicated, interesting character whom you have to root for! For fans of Horror, especially 80’s slashers.  I would love to tell everyone to read this as Jade’s journey is fun, fantastic, and horrifying for all the wrong reasons. It is proper horror though with graphic descriptions and tragic characters. Not for every reader. But if you can handle a little gore this is well worth the read.
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UghhhhUH. I wanted to love this, I really did. The synopsis has me on the verge of happy tears and the first chapter of the book had me! Then we meet Jade, who is likely one of the most insufferable narrators of all the time (and in horror, that’s quite a feat). It does pick up near the end, but by then you’re so over it it doesn’t land the way I think Graham intended it to. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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4.66 stars

We follow Jade, a senior high school graduate struggling to find her place in the world, accept the lack of prospects, and feel upset about her beloved hometown's gentrification. She narrates her life as a slasher movie and is convinced that a slasher massacre is looming in the shadows because she found her final girl. Will her final girl save the town? Is there enough time to convince her prospect to accept her fate and train her before the slasher attacks?

I felt that My Heart Is a Chainsaw was an impactful and action-packed horror novel that satisfies every horror fan while at the same time bringing awareness to the racism Native American's suffer as well as some of the main issues they face. I fell in love with Jade, and her arc was so painfully beautiful, I couldn't hold my emotions at times. 

This book is a heavy read filled with angst and an overwhelming sense of dread in the beginning and a fun, speed-of-light, full-of-gore third act! I would have loved this book more if its middle part had found a more steady footing. It felt a little too long for me. But this is me nitpicking.

 For most of the first half, I will say that I was having a hard time reading the book. Graham Jones' writing is superb, and it felt out of my league until I channeled the last girl in me and decided I was meant to read this book! I will re-read this later with an audiobook as a companion and feel it will help with my reading experience.

As a horror movie buff, I loved all the references and discussions surrounding the meaning of the last girl and the value in slasher movies. I also feel that the author touched on an important subject (I can't mention it without spoiling the book) in a very respectful, gentle, and powerful way.

Another thing that I loved in this book was the Slasher 101 essays we find sprinkled throughout the book. Jade writes them to her teacher, and if these are not a testament to Mr. Graham Jones' talent, I don't know what is. Those essays read as if they were written by a teenager, down to the grammar and tone. 

My Heart is a Chainsaw has, in my opinion, a closing that rivals The Haunting of Hill House's. Those last paragraphs were beautiful, poetic, intense, emotionally charged, and perfect. 

I can see Tarantino adapting this movie, as this book read very visual. It started in black and white, went full-on technicolor before it faded back to black and white (with bright red accents), and ended in beautiful sepia. 

This book was my first Graham Jones novel, and I will keep reading his works!

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Stephen Graham Jones, Gallery Books, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of My Heart Is a Chainsaw.
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