My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians) takes years of horror film cliches and mangles them together to provide a solid riff on the genre. It bends the rules enough to keep the story new and exciting while tackling social issues such as class, mental health, physical and psychological abuse, and gentrification to its bloody climax. We’ve seen authors use pop culture references before in books like Ready Player One, for example. Instead of using titles and tropes to propel the narrative forward, Jones makes the reader think they know what will happen next or how the story ends---I didn’t see the ending coming together as it did, I’ll admit.
Any horror fan will probably associate the main character, Jade Daniels (a girl that the 90’ grunge era would welcome with open arms), with Randy from Wes Craven’s Scream franchise, a master in horror knowledge. He loves to talk about the “rules” of horror in those films. Still, the difference is that Randy always used the term “if this was a horror movie,” whereas Jade has no issue telling herself and others that the rules exist in reality and the town and residents of Proofrock are going through the motions. Witnessing some of the similarities of horror and Giallo film to events happening, a compelled Jade has to find the “final girl” for this story---because, let’s face it, it wouldn’t be a slasher film without one. With many characters to point an accusatory finger at, Jones has managed to take what writer Kevin Williamson did with Scream and take it one step further.
If The Only Good Indians helped put Jones, as a horror writer, on the map for many—then My Heart is a Chainsaw will propel him even further. Chainsaw in a slasher movie waiting to be put to film. A bloody, well thought out, fast-paced, genre-bending, violent whodunnit that speaks to horror fans with Jones’s comprehensive knowledge of the genre of those who want a novel that will make their jaws drop to the ground.