Hi everyone! Welcome to my blog tour stop for Mayhem, a recent read that I really enjoyed. If you like beach towns and morally gray supernatural happenings, this one’s for you! (Though please be sure to check out the content warnings below.)
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.
Diversity Rep: two biracial (Black & White) major characters, wlw major character
Warnings: suicide (described briefly), domestic violence and child abuse (narrated), rape (narrated briefly), serial kidnapping, murder, death by car accident, addiction, drug use (some of it underage), sexual content (implied briefly)
(Before I begin my review, I wanted to note that I really liked that content warnings are listed in the book, and that you can find more details regarding those warnings here. There’s also an author’s note that addresses some of the sensitive content in the book, which you can read here.)
Here’s what I liked about Mayhem:
✨ Intense, suspenseful story that sucks the reader in
I was on the edge of my seat reading Mayhem because the backstory and the magic system were revealed just a little bit at a time. Despite the beach backdrop, the town of Santa Maria has a lot lurking under the surface, and the book can definitely get intense, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for a darker summer read. Jeff Zentner described the book as “beach-gothic,” and I couldn’t agree more.
✨ Distinctive setting
The setting of this novel almost feels like a character in and of itself. Most of the story is set in 1987, the summer before protagonist Mayhem’s junior year of high school, though there are epistolary entries from the perspectives of Mayhem’s ancestors that are interspersed throughout.
I did feel that the choice of time period was interesting as, save for a few pop culture references and mentions of a video store, I felt like not much of the story would’ve change had it been set in 2020—though I may have just not picked up on everything because I am a 2000s baby myself, after all. It very well may be that I’m missing something, so feel free to drop me a comment if you have any insight.
✨ Fascinating magic system
I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say that the fantastical elements of this story were really fun for me to read about, as I hadn’t encountered anything quite like them before.
I do feel like I should mention that Mayhem draws inspiration from the 1987 film The Lost Boys, which I have not seen, and some reviews I’ve read noted that many elements of this book seem very similar to that movie. Perhaps you may like the book more if you go in as I did, without having watched The Lost Boys. I, for one, am curious to watch it now after having enjoyed Mayhem.
✨ Complex characters and family relationships
I really liked Mayhem, as well as many of the other characters in the book. The dynamics between Mayhem and her mom, Roxy, and her aunt, Elle, were messy and very interesting, as were the characters’ relationships with the kids that Elle has taken in: Neve, Jason, and Kidd.
I’m a sucker for protective sibling relationships like Jason and Kidd’s, which was adorable, and I really enjoyed both characters individually as well. Kidd was spunky and so cute, and I found Jason to be very sweet once I got to know him a bit.
✨ Female empowerment
Mayhem is full of complex female relationships, and the themes of vigilante justice and women standing up to their abusers were empowering in a way that reminded me a bit of Hannah Capin’s Foul is Fair. (I’ll link that book below in case you want to check it out! Highly recommend.)
✨ Beautiful prose
The writing and the figurative language specifically is sooo good. There were multiple instances where I read a line and I just had to stop and take it in for a second because of how beautiful it was.
All in all, I found Mayhem to be a deliciously dark read that I greatly enjoyed. If you like murdery fantasies set in the real world and powerful lineages of women, add this to your tbr.
Click here if you’d like to read an excerpt from Mayhem!
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.
It’s also available for pre-order here on my new favorite website, Bookshop.org, which directly supports local indie bookstores.
(Click on the covers to read my reviews!)
Thanks so much for reading this review! Let’s chat in the comments—what are your favorite darker/supernatural books? Have you seen Lost Boys? Do you have any ’80s movie recs? I hope you all are doing okay!
Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for including me on the tour and for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Affiliate Disclosure ✨
This post contains affiliate links for Amazon and Bookshop, meaning that I will earn a commission if you click through and end up buying something, at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!