Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies. In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for.
Jones’s My Heart Is a Chainsaw is such an accomplishment; it makes me want to watch all the horror. This novel is a paean to slasher films, a devotional about an acolyte written by an obsessive. And it’s a lot of fun ... Jade’s awkwardness and insecurities, her intractable obstinacy, her refusal to behave in a socially acceptable manner, all make her a believable nuisance to the adults in her life...She’s respectful and patient, with an irrepressible sense of humor to balance our her sense of horror. We’re so much on her side we find ourselves hoping for the worst ... When things get going, they really go gonzo, and we’re scrabbling to hang on by our fingernails throughout the climax. Everything promised in the first act is gleefully delivered in the third with comedy, pathos and a machete clutched in the hands of an unforgettable character.
Ultimately, Jones utilizes Jade as a tool to produce a loving, critical, and tender send-up of the slasher, and the novel becomes a refreshing horror narrative which finally names Native peoples as an avid audience of the slasher genre ... the figure of the Final Girl looms large over the narrative, and Jade, unlike the reader, never manages to consciously comprehend how the archetype’s repressive and at times unattainable standards can do more harm than good to young women ... Jade is a character that’s easy to fall in love with, but Jones plays upon this likability to build on the mystery of her past. The great magic trick of the novel that Jones executes is that he exploits our tendency to identify with the Final Girl to lead us astray. It is in this way that the novel shines as both a celebration of Finals Girls and a cautionary critique of unwavering fanaticism.
... the apocalypse is so inevitable, and so obviously Jade’s wish fulfillment, that it lacks a certain conviction. With perhaps one or two exceptions, Jade doesn’t actually want to see everyone die. But more than that, all the references to fictional slasher bloodbaths can’t help but remind readers that this slasher bloodbath is, well, fictional. In real life, Jade can’t drown her tormentors in the lake. She can’t summon Jason from the depths to smite the iniquitous. The whole book has been telling you, over and over, that the moral order of a slasher is just a compensating story Jade tells herself. As a result, the novel feels more metafictional than real ... Jason isn’t there killing anyone. But Dad is, and maybe sometimes he does. Jones’ accomplishment lies in showing that that’s what slashers were saying all along.