The comparison for Mayhem was one hundred percent what drew my interest – not to mention the gorgeous cover – having a soft spot for 80’s flicks from Dirty Dancing to An American Werewolf in London, any novel that manages to capture that iconic atmosphere is certainly something I admire. When I was invited to be part of the blog tour (my first!) I couldn’t resist. If you’re looking for an eerie jaunt back in time to Santa Maria’s boardwalk with compelling female characters then I’d recommend picking this up!
Proceed with caution, this book deals with the topic(s) of domestic and child abuse. A full list of warnings can be found at the author’s website.
Mayhem pulls from cult classic The Lost Boys to create a fabulist tale about family, magic and taking control of one’s own life. From page one this book was not what I expected it to be, it occupies an odd space between being a fantastical crime novel and a coming of age tale dealing with grief, identity and trauma. This novel could have easily been lost in this purgatory but I think it excels, the magical elements of the book only serve to purport the telling of a much harder story of flawed and authentic characters.
The writing is a real testament to the author’s talent.
Yes, it’s lyrical and carries you along much as the ever prominent waves in the novel do but more than that – it hits so many emotive points and does it incredibly well. For example, the use of a triad rhetoric at certain times in the book – notably earlier on in the novel when Mayhem is more lost – goes a long way to showcasing the main character’s inner turmoil without reams of exposition. I think Mayhem’s characterisation is carefully established with a great deal of insight, in my opinion. Following a character who has experienced trauma and seeing how that is portrayed not only in her inner monologue but in her interactions with other characters is something which has been executed with a great deal of success.
There’s a danger of the misery trend in the tone of the novel to be interpreted as angst, which I have to disagree with. I think it’s a perfect reflection – in my own experiences – of a teenager dealing with what Mayhem is dealing with, amongst some fantastical elements. Furthermore, it’s not only what Mayhem is dealing with but it’s an open dialogue about generational effects of shared experience(s). I think the term feminist is too easily adhered to books with all female or female focused casts.
This is a book about magical women, in more than the literal sense. Whilst there were some minor plot issues which I will address further on, the characterisation of the female cast is something to be commended here. Mayhem, with her own brand of sadness and anger. Kidd, relegated to safety because of her age but never treated as less than. Elle, allowed to love who she loves. Roxy, who was brave enough to walk through what must have been hell to protect her daughter. Neve, trying so hard to protect herself and others. These women all have their own brand of strength. What I’ve written down is an oversimplification. What I liked so much about what Laure did here is that all the female characters had backstories, they were rich and meaningful.
As I’ve alluded to already, what I would call the secondary plot isn’t the most important part of this book and for the most part it buoys along nicely. However, what little critique I have is less about the magic system and family history and more about the lack of conversation regarding the finality of Mayhem’s actions. While the characters do address their unwillingness to continue the same way, I felt like there wasn’t enough time paid to both the concept that this has been happening for decades and specifically to Mayhem and how she reacts to her actions. In addition, I personally didn’t think that it was necessary for the romance to be a part of the novel. As it stands, it’s subtle enough and removed enough from the story to not have really bothered me but for that reason I also think it was unnecessary. All those emotions could have been explored just as much and to the same effect in a platonic relationship.
Overall, I really liked my experience reading Mayhem. I liked the teasing out of the story and the exploration of the contemporary elements of the novel. At times the source material it drew from was evident but it didn’t destroy my enjoyment of the book. It has certainly piqued my interest in the rest of the author’s work.
I was provided a copy of this book for review by the publisher.