23 July 2020

ARC Review // Mayhem

Title: Mayhem
Author: Estelle Laure
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Published: 14th July 2020
Pages: 304 [Kindle edition]

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 family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.

Here comes another belated review. 😳 I just hope publishers can forgive my belatedness. I don't want to write a "but" -- there is no excuse for belated reviews that should help to promote a book. However, I went through an awful case of reading slump. Moreover, even though Mayhem had a gripping start, the plot was very slow-paced and there a few things that bothered me -- I blame it on how the book was promoted: "a YA feminist mash up inspired by The Lost Boys and The Craft."

Storytelling: Estelle Laure shares a very heartfelt note about how Mayhem came to be. This note shattered my soul. Mayhem is a book that deals with very powerful and heavy themes, such as abuse, domestic violence, rape, suicide, and vicious murders (Triger Warning!). Laure doesn't take on these matters lightly and she explores them respectfully through Mayhem and her family.

Now, I need to address the elephant in the room: the misconception of feminism. Feminism is not about reversing power roles. Feminism is not about women being superior to or better than men. This perspective is called radical feminism. Feminism is about gender equality. Feminism is about having the same opportunities and rights. Mayhem does discusses women gaining power and no longer being the meek and feeble creatures that the patriarchal society expects them to be. The story portrays women standing up for themselves and protecting their souls and bodies from a patriarchal order that turns a blind eye to their suffering. However, throughout the story, a few times the discourse gave me radical feminism and neo-feminism vibes. Every evil soul belongs to men. Only men can be assassins. Believe me when I say that this type of discourse hurts more than helps feminism (I'm telling you this from experience). With this said, I hope the word "feminism" stops being used in the wrong context because our society is far from equal and when such an important message is wrongly expressed, a cause loses its power.

Characters: On the whole, the characters are intriguing (even though some of them are underdeveloped) and I quite enjoyed the bond built between them -- minus the insta-love that felt very weird. I loved the sisterly bond between Mayhem's mother and her aunt. Years may pass by, but they are sisters forever. The only character I was bothered by was Neve. I could not empathize with her at all! (It probably makes me an awful human being.)

The characters in this novel are morally gray due to what the magic asks of them (I need to learn how to add a "spoilers" button so that I can add explanations). After learning her ancestry and understanding who she is, Mayhem questions her destiny as a Brayburn woman and wonders what is the right way to use the power that runs in her blood. Her will to question the past was something I liked a lot about Mayhem. She decided how she wanted to use her magic and did not just accept something because her family's history told her so.

World Building: I've grown some fondness for the eighties because of Stranger Things and the recent cinema adaptation of It by Stephen King. So, it was more than natural to be excited about how Mayhem was going to portray this decade. Sadly, as I flipped the pages, I found too many similarities between Santa Maria and Santa Carla from The Lost Boys. From the Frog Brothers to the beach and the hideout, everything was too much alike! I was expecting something inspired by and not receiving so many The Lost Boys vibes. Also, the magic system needed more work -- the journal entries do give some background, but these were not enough. Besides, more often than not, the journal entries left me with more questions than answers. All in all, the world building was a little bit of a letdown.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher/author for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Do you love the eighties as much as I do? What are your favourite books set in the eighties?

If you like my blog and would like to support it, you may use my Book Depository Affiliate Link or buy me a coffee.
You may also buy some bookish items from my RedBubble store


  1. I love your review, and I recently read this book, too. I didn't enjoy it :( The feminism was warped and I found the plot very confusing, too.

    1. Thank you, Amy. 😊 Publishers should be more careful when they promote a book as feminist when it has traces of radical feminism. It harms such a powerful cause.

      Happy readings!