Hello, darlings! Today I am super excited to share with you my thoughts on Mayhem by Estelle Laure! I quite enjoyed this one, and I hope you do too!Mayhem by Estelle Laure
Published by Wednesday Books on July 14, 2020
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley
A YA feminist mash up inspired by The Lost Boys and The Craft.
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.
This book was quite a unique take on contemporary fantasy. I enjoyed it aside from a few minor qualms, so why don’t we break it down into what I loved versus what worked a bit less for me, yeah?
What I Loved:
- Such a focus on family and friendships! I loved how much the book centered on Mayhem’s family. We know Mayhem’s mother loves her quite a bit, but she’s deep into fighting her own major demons, including an abusive husband (and stepfather of Mayhem) that they’ve just escaped from. They flee to Mayhem’s aunt’s home, which is also their childhood home, and Mayhem gets to learn a lot of stuff about her family for the first time. Her aunt also has kids she’s taken under her wing who immediately become part of Mayhem’s new circle of people. It’s great to watch all these relationships blossom and change and grow.
- Always here for an ’80s setting. Mayhem pulls out a Kissing Kooler at one point. A Kissing. Kooler. I lived and died by those things, I won’t lie. (Apparently, according to the search I did above, you can still buy them on eBay. I do not recommend this, as we’re talking 30 year old makeup, but you do you.) Anyway, I think the author did a great job using the beach/ocean backdrop with the nostalgic era, too. For whatever reason, mysteries set pre-cell phone era gives me the extra willies and I like it.
- It deals with some pretty heavy subject matter. The author has put a note in the final copy of the book (including some content warning), and you can find it here. But we know there is abuse from Mayhem’s stepfather out of the gate, but the mystery that Mayhem finds herself a part of also includes some pretty heinous crimes. But I liked the way that some of the choices that Mayhem and the others had to make fell into a very gray moral area, and Mayhem really had to decide how she wanted to use the power she’d inherited.
- I didn’t have trouble figuring out the magic. I mean, it isn’t explored super in-depth, but I think that is purposeful. Like, it doesn’t really matter where it came from because it’s here and now Mayhem needs to decide how she wants to use it. I also liked that it’s a female familial connection, and we even get glimpses of journal entries from her ancestors describing how they handled the realization that they possessed magic.
What I Didn’t:
- The pacing felt a bit off to me. Parts of it, especially the first half, felt a little draggy to me, but then by the end I had felt like perhaps some of the resolution was a bit rushed. Not a dealbreaker, but worth noting, especially if you get irked by slower pacing.
- This is maybe a little spoilery, so I am going to do some tags, but I’ll say it’s a bit of a character complaint. View Spoiler »The way the magic worked, it seemed like an “easy” way for characters to do things that were totally out of character. It was hard then to tell who the characters, especially the secondary ones, really were at their core. What was them versus what was magic affecting them. « Hide Spoiler
Bottom Line: Super atmospheric and wonderfully mysterious, I was pulled into Mayhem’s world of family and magic.