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My Heart Is a Chainsaw

My Heart Is a Chainsaw (The Lake Witch Trilogy, #1)My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A love letter to slasher movies in novel form, MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW follows Jade, a small-town Idaho teenager as obsessed with slasher movies as author Stephen Graham Jones surely is. She’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of the slasher subgenre (she’s seen movies even I, a longtime horror movie aficionado, am not familiar with!), so when she starts to notice signs that a “slasher cycle” is about to begin in her hometown, she’d more excited than scared. She hates it here and would happily see everyone dead. That attitude changes when things become a little too real and blood starts to flow. With the help of her slasher obsession, she sets out to determine who the killer is, and to her credit she gets much of it right — but there’s a twist. (Of course there is. It wouldn’t be a slasher movie without a twist!)

Jones’s effortless ability to create lasting, indelible characters is the motor that makes MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW run. Jade is not someone you’ll soon forget, and to Jones’s credit, the same can be said about many of the side characters as well, from Letha Mondragon, the perfect new girl at school, to Sheriff Hardy, who keeps trying to do the right thing even when his own personal tragedies try to sink him. My only complaint about the novel is that we are so deep in Jade’s head throughout that there were times when I was itching for something to happen outside of her. There are long stretches where we’re only in her thoughts, and as fascinating a character as she is, the novel only felt unputdownable to me when Jade was doing, not just thinking.

One thing Jones gets right in all his fiction, and that so many other horror authors don’t, is that he knows how to nail an ending. The final image in MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW is so breathtakingly beautiful I had to read it several times over because I didn’t want to let go of it. A beautifully written novel about ugly deeds, MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW is challenging, especially for readers hoping for something more action-driven than contemplative, but it’s well worthy of the praise it’s received.

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