Mayhem by Estelle Laure is a young adult paranormal novel that takes place in 1987 and follows a young woman named Mayhem Brayburn. She’s always known that her and her mother, Roxy, were different from other people around them. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s chronic pain or Mayhem’s irresistible attraction to water. Whatever the reason, they are unique, possibly even special. When Roxy’s husband takes his abuse one step too far, her and Mayhem pack up and flee to Santa Maria, California where Mayhem will learn about family mysteries and discover what it means to be herself, all with the help of a few neighbour kids who aren’t exactly what they seem to be.
The premise for this book sounded mildly interesting to me. Lately, I’ve been digging self-discovery and coming-of-age narratives. However, Mayhem ended up being so painfully unoriginal that I was left immensely frustrated and wholly disappointed by the book’s finale.
There are two main downfalls with Mayhem. The first are the characters. They are incredibly insipid and one-dimensional. Even the leading lady, Mayhem, is a complete bore. The dialogue between her and the people around her are forced and unnatural, which detracted from my ability to get invested with her experiences and interactions. Most, if not all, of the characters are exactly as they appear on the surface. They also have rather forgettable personalities. At one point while reading, I had mixed up a couple of the characters. I’m not sure if it was because there were so little distinguishing traits between them, or if the writing was too dry and vapid.
The second downfall is the plot. The novel reads like a gross regurgitation of the film, The Lost Boys. It has the same locations, the same characters right down to their names, and the same adolescent summer vibe. Because of these audaciously derivative characteristics, I could not put any interest into the story at all. If there were some sort of unique twists or inspiring freshness to a favoured old-school narrative, maybe I would been able to appreciate the tale a bit more. But as it stands… I had so little care to give.
A few others minor titbits that made Mayhem a humongous flop include a pacing that’s excruciatingly slow, an awkward beginning that feels more like the middle of a story than anything else, and the basic, amateurish writing style. I’d also like to comment that the book is not a feminist books by far! Having a story with a mostly female cast and a woman who escapes her abusive relationship but does literally nothing else in the book, doesn’t make equal feminist representation! There is absolutely nothing about Mayhem that would construe it as a feminist book. Nada. Niente. Kuch nahin. So… if you want a feminist book, this is not going to be it. (I would recommend The Candle and The Flame by Nafiza Azad for YA fantasy and Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali for YA contemporary if you’re looking for brilliant and fierce, authentically feminist novels).
Overall, Mayhem by Estelle Laure was one of the worst books that I have read in 2020 and I would not recommend it to anyone. If you’ve seen The Lost Boys and would like something to compare it to, then maybe pick this book up, but even then, I honestly cannot recommend it in good faith.
1 nap outta 5!
Please note: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of St. Martin’s Press & Wednesday Books.