My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
I always start these reviews with a personal story. Because a good book should be relatable, right?
I remember back in the 80's, in my elementary school years, the golden age of Slasher Films was ruling the box-office and the VHS rental stores. I was hooked! I thought everybody else was too! I used to take my Michael Myers mask, Freddy Krueger glove, and prized Fangoria magazines to school. I distinctly remember in 1st grade bringing Fangoria, Issue #63, with the Evil Dead II cover in front of the class to Show & Tell.
I still remember the white faces contorting in disgust as the whole class resounded, "Eeeww!" It was great. But, being the only Native American boy who liked gross things in a class of European Descendants in the Midwest, I just made it harder for myself. It was the start of a different degree of reality than what was the "norm."
Our MC, in the new slasher novel by insanely prolific Native American author Stephen Graham Jones, is a Blackfeet girl named Jennifer Daniels. But, she prefers Jade. Jade is a 17-year old HS senior from a small town called Proofrock, Idaho; a hidden valley town surrounded by a national park, a dam nearby, and a huge lake as its centerpiece. Jade is anything but "normal" as she is the only Native American in the class, and the town, besides her deadbeat dad. She finds her salvation in her F'd up existence through horror movies. Slashers on VHS in particular.
(Hmm...Only Native kid who is a horror fan. It's F-ing UNCANNY how I can relate to this badass chick!)
Eccentric Billionaires have come to love the escapist beauty of this "new land" and decide to gentrify the place and settle across the lake and call it: Terra Nova.(heh:) A gated community SO-gated that you can only access it by boat! The construction phase is already up to building the mansions as the Terra Novians employ the Proofrockians as slave labor, when one night, Jade decides to ruminate on her existence in a canoe like Alice in Friday the 13th. Without giving anything away: Blood Flows.
But before that, the blood sacrifice to kick off My Heart is a Chainsaw had already started with a skinny-dipping Dutch couple. The blood is plentiful throughout the book as we follow Jade, after her fateful night in the canoe, she is damn certain that a real-life Slasher Film is playing out in real time. As the body count keeps adding up, her Master's Degree in Slasher Lore has her Omnia Peratus, and the book reads as a primer, if not, a bible of Slasher Trivia.
As a lifetime horror fan, I was having a helluva time with this novel as Jade laid out everything from Bava-to-Fulci! From Carpenter-to-Craven! The tropes and characters that were fleshing out in her little reality were fun to guess as she is trying to make sense of the big picture. Classism, racial disparity, her outcast reputation, there is a Proofrock legend which involves a little girl who walks on a lake...and bears; plenty of tasty guts to splatter in a well-rounded horror fiction.
This is a great read for Halloween time, but to some of us where Halloween time is All The Damn Time, then My Heart is a Chainsaw is gonna be your go-to!
'S Pretty Damn Good! -FL