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.
“One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, all the damn vampires!”The Lost Boys, 1987
Estelle Laure’s latest YA novel Mayhem is about how a person’s history affects their standing with themselves, about family secrets and past lives. It blends magical elements seamlessly with reality and features a complex mother-daughter relationship and since it takes place over a summer, I lived the lost summer of 2020 vicariously through it. As some early reviews point out, it borrows many elements from the cult film The Lost Boys, this time bringing female characters to the spotlight, hence The Craft comparison.
A huge part of my initial reaction to this book was informed by the fact that I never saw either film. I think if I went into this having seen at least The Lost Boys, I would have a different perspective. In any case, I read a summary and it seems like Mayhem has a lot of themes the film doesn’t have. It engages with feminism, rape culture, consent and power dynamics and I really liked that it had zero patience for abusers. Instead, it prioritizes victims’ stories and doesn’t put all of them in the same box. The slow pace didn’t bother me, and I enjoyed learning about the Brayburn family history through the diary entries of the Brayburn women who came before them, but arguably this was the extent to which the magic was explained.
When Mayhem arrives at her mother’s family home, she begins a whirlwind friendship with her aunt’s adoptive children/proteges. Neve’s near-180 transformation by the second half of the book was a bit jarring, though it’s understandable why she felt the way she did. The aunt, by the way, was by far my favorite and I wanted more of her. Mayhem’s pain is believable and raw. Although she took on a great undertaking, I liked that she wasn’t expected by the narration to act like an adult through all of this, that in the end, she was allowed her teenagerhood.
Mayhem is out on July 7. Many thanks to the publisher for an e-ARC through NetGalley and the opportunity to be a part of the blog tour!
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.