Horror and Hope in My Heart is a Chainsaw

It’s October, and the Matchmakers welcome our guest blogger, Noble librarian Hillary Brown!

Spooky season: It’s the most wonderful time of the year for horror fans! Whether it’s binging a murder show, catching the latest chapter in a slasher movie franchise, or cracking the spine of a creepy novel, there are lots of options out there for those of us who just can’t get enough of the dark and dreadful. Horror as a genre has experienced a bit of a resurgence in the last couple years, which raises the question, why? Are we simply depraved, those of us who can’t get enough murder and mayhem? Damaged? Deranged?

In My Heart is a Chainsaw, author Stephen Graham Jones explores the human appetite for the gory and gruesome. In a novel that is as heartfelt and funny as it is frightening, a horror-movie-obsessed loner, Jade, plays the lead. Working as a janitor the summer after her senior year of high school, she is the first to notice when peculiar things start to happen in town and is far from surprised when the body count begins to rise. She has spent innumerable hours watching every slasher flick the 1980s and 90s ever churned out, so she knows what is supposed to happen next. If the reader isn’t initiated into the cult of horror like Jade, don’t worry. She rattles off the relevant references with charm and humor almost unbefitting of the grisly circumstances unfolding around her.

Unlike the campy, cinematic world of Michael Myers, Jade’s world is also full of real monsters like poverty, abuse, and discrimination. In her quest to find the fabled Final Girl who can stop the psychopath stalking her town, Jade must also confront her own marginalization. In an interview with horror writing legend Tananarive Dew for Fangoria.com, Jones, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, emphasized the importance of horror to him as a person who has experienced discrimination. Jones explained, “it’s about the rise of the underdog. It’s me versus Cthulhu or me versus Jason Vorhees, and both those can take me out without even breaking a sweat, so I should not be able to survive this, yet against all odds, against a whole world trying to smush me down, if I push through hard enough, I can make it to daylight. And I think that’s a wonderful model for us to all follow.”

Perhaps this feeling of triumph is what we are really chasing when we get hankering for horror. If so, My Heart is a Chainsaw delivers abundantly, as a book that holds hope in equal measure with fear. Resilient and defiant in the face of danger, Jade reminds readers to keep going. No matter how dark the night gets, or what lurks in the shadows, if we can just hold on, if we can make it to the last chapter, the sun will come up. Good will prevail and the evil forces will be vanquished forever. Unless there is a sequel, of course.

And wait, there’s more horror to be had:

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

Bunny by Mona Awad


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