It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.
From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.
Title: Mayhem | Author: Estelle Laure | Publisher: Wednesday Books | Pub. Date: 14th July 2020 | Pages: 304 | ISBN: 9781250297938 | Genre: YA Horror/Fantasy | Language: English | Content Warnings: See end of post. | Source: Received from publisher for review consideration. | Starred Review
5 simple words to immediately pique my interest: “inspired by The Lost Boys.” Now, young adult books aren’t something I’d typically reach for (sadly I think I’ve just aged out of the genre, for the most part), but you tell me you have an 80s feminist coming-of-age horror/fantasy inspired by one of my favourite movies, and I’m going to get on board. Very glad I took the time to check this one out, Mayhem is a breath of fresh air compared with some of the other YA genre novels I’ve read recently.
This is not a light and fluffy read. Within the first few chapters, we know that Mayhem Brayburn’s father died when she was a baby, and her mother, Roxy, is now in an abusive relationship with a man named Lyle. When things finally hit a boiling point with Lyle, Roxy and Mayhem return to Santa Maria, where the Brayburn name is gold, for reasons Mayhem doesn’t yet understand.
While the subject matter in Mayhem is undoubtedly dark, I found it to be handled very, very well. The author doesn’t sugarcoat it or dumb it down to be more palatable for a teen audience. It’s sometimes a bit brutal, but never excessively drawn out or played as purely plot fodder. Compared with my last YA read which threw all kind of awful subject matter at the reader without ever stopping to really make it feel like an important part of the story, in Mayhem this topics are handled with a sensitivity and honesty that can be lacking in some YA books that try to tackle difficult subjects.
Mayhem is definitely the star of this novel, and I thought she was portrayed in an authentic way. Her reactions, her interactions with her new “family,” her relationship with her mother, all felt very believable and realistic given her history. She was a compelling main character and I eagerly followed her journey. However, some of the other characters felt a bit lacking, especially Neve who doesn’t get much of a backstory. It didn’t pull me out of the story, but I would have been able to invest even more deeply had the secondary characters shared Mayhem’s depth. I also found myself wanting more of the Brayburn history and more detail on how, exactly, the Brayburn powers worked. This is one of the few cases where I finished a book and immediately wished there were a sequel, because I felt there was so much more of this world and these characters to be discovered!
And of course, I have to talk about the connection that initially grabbed my interest with this one – The Lost Boys connection. I noticed a couple other readers mention this connection was a bit heavy handed, but I found it to be just enough to keep me eagerly looking for the next Easter egg. I loved the idea that Santa Maria and Santa Carla are one and the same, and the character cameos were great without being over the top. Plus I’m always on board when Sexy Sax Man gets a mention! The plot itself never veers anywhere near the movie plot, so it didn’t feel at all like a rip-off – more of an homage via some fun nods and a couple quotes.
I think this one will definitely appeal to fans of YA horror who like a dash of fantasy in their reads. I can guarantee that if there IS a sequel for Mayhem in the future, I’ll be all over it! I really loved this story and these characters, and I’d be more than happy to spend more time with them.
About the Author
Estelle Laure, the author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, believes in
love, magic, and the power of facing hard truths. She has a BA in Theatre Arts and an
MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults,
and she lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her family. Her work is translated widely
around the world. Find her on Twitter @starlaure and Instagram @estellelaurebooks.
Mayhem is out July 14th, 2020 and can be purchased directly from Wednesday Books. You can also find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads; however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.