The Lost Boys meets Wilder Girls in this supernatural feminist YA novel.
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 family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.
E-ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and are not affected in any way.
TW: abuse, rape, murder, violence.
Beautiful writing. During all my reading I was very pleasantly surprised to realize that I loved the writing style. This is not the first book by this author that I am reading, and I remember that in the past the writing style didn’t really stick with me. But at this one I was finding myself unable to stop reading! I was mesmerized by it and enjoyed every single word of it!
Character development. Each character had a very good outline, with specific personality tones and it was very easy for me to distinguish between them. They showed growth during the book, true, a little faster for my liking, but it was there. I also loved that the characters felt very real, taking (sometimes stupid) decisions that I think most of the teenagers in their situation would have taken.
Magic system. A very interesting one that, in my opinion, really helped the book and the plot.
Journal entries from the Brayburn family. These ones were pure gold! It added so much more to the mystic part of the book that I felt like if it was a book just about these entries, I would no doubt read it ASAP! I can easily say that these parts were my favorite ones from the book!
Noticeable speed difference between the first half of the book and the second one. Though I usually prefer that the books that I read to have a rather fast pace, the slow one in the first half of Mayhem felt perfect for it! It helped at building the story and the overall mythic aspect of it. Starting with the second half the pace was getting extremely fast, thing that took away from the joy of reading it.
I enjoyed very much my time reading this book and looking forward to other books from this author. When I heard about it, I saw people saying that it’s having some horror elements, but, as a person that doesn’t read horror (because I want to sleep my nights lol), I can tell you that nothing seemed horror to me.
LETTER FROM THE AUTOR
Like Mayhem, I experienced a period of time when my life was extremely unstable. I can still remember what it was like to be shaken so hard I thought my head would come off, to watch the room vibrate, to feel unsafe in my own home, to never know what was coming around the next corner. I wanted to run. I always wanted to run.
I ran to friends, but also movies and books, and although girls were more passively portrayed in movies like The Lost Boys back then, that feeling of teenagers prowling the night, taking out bad people, being unbeatable . . . that got me through it.
I guess that’s what I tried to do here. I wanted girls who feel powerless to be able to imagine themselves invincible. And yes, I used a rape as the seed for that fierce lineage, not without thought. For me, there is nothing worse, and I like to think great power can rise up as a result of a devastating trespass.
Please know I took none of this lightly. Writing this now, my heart is beating hard and my throat is dry. This is the first time I not only really looked at my own past, the pain of loss, the pain of the loss of trust that comes when someone puts hands on you without permission, the pain of people dying, the shock of suicide, and put all of it to paper in a way that made me feel victorious, strong, and warrior-like. It is also terrifying. I know I’m not the only one who had a scary childhood, and
I know I’m not the only one who clings to stories as salve to smooth over burnt skin. I am so sick of girls and women being hurt. This was my way of taking my own vengeance and trying to access forgiveness.
Thank you for reading and for those of you who can relate, I see you and you are not alone.
Short author bio:
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.
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