"Don't Fear the Reaper" Book Review
Written by Zach Rosenberg
Published by Gallery/Saga Press
Written by Stephen Graham Jones
2023, 464 pages, Fiction
Released on February 7th, 2023
Four years ago, Jade Daniels did everything a high-school senior is supposed to do. She battled serial killers, faced her trauma, and explored her own identity as a human being. That is the plot of My Heart Is a Chainsaw, and now in Don’t Fear the Reaper, Jade Daniels is back.
Unfortunately for Jade, not all is well in the town of Proofrock. Four years have passed and Jade returns just in time to witness the work of another serial killer. Dark Mill South seeks revenge for thirty-eight Dakota men hanged over a century ago, in 1862. A new slaughter begins, bodies turning up left and right. And Jade is left to contend with a brutal legacy.
Stephen Graham Jones is an author who knows slashers. Much of his most well-known horror work features slasher undertones or overtones, the strength of the final girl who endures watching those around her murdered by a being of supernatural tenacity and ferocity. She’s the one who lives, the one who fights back. Jade Daniels is not your typical final girl. As she herself notes in the first novel, Jade isn’t a “good” girl. She’s bitter, sullen, withdrawn, and hardly the common image of a slasher heroine. But Jade is much stronger than even she herself understands and watching her realize this and come into her own is one of the joys in My Heart is a Chainsaw.
Beautifully referential, Don’t Fear The Reaper, like My Heart is a Chainsaw before it, harkens back to beloved and popular slashers such as Scream while referencing little-known ones like Popcorn. But never once does Jones forget the emotional core of this book. This is not just a slasher story, but a final girl story. It’s a story about Jade, who’s already endured more than any young woman should ever have to. Suffering doesn’t make her strong, because suffering doesn’t shape her. Being Jade Daniels is what makes her powerful.
Jones writes with a rare amount of empathy for his lead and those around her. Like any good sequel, the body count is escalated and bloody murder fills the pages. The story ramps into high gear and never lets up. But neither does Jones let us forget the core of trauma and healing so essential the slasher story, bringing it from subtext to pure text.
Don’t Fear the Reaper is fairly self-contained, but with signs of a third coming to round out Jones’s first trilogy. The reader can only look forward to when Jade rides again for her third adventure. It’s hard to tell us not to fear the reaper when his rampage is so beautifully written.
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