Book Review: Mayhem by Estelle Laure

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020, A bildungsroman, A book with a bird on the cover

TW: Domestic abuse, sexual assault, drug abuse, self harm/suicide

I love to read a book that is compared to another pop culture favorite. For Mayhem, those comparisons were The Lost Boys and The Craft, and seriously, who doesn't love both? The Lost Boys is a vampire classic, and maybe one of my all-time favorite movies. So of course I added Mayhem high to my list of must-reads.

After growing up with her mother and abusive step-father in a small town in Texas, Mayhem Brayburn and her mother Roxy finally leave Texas and head back to their family home in Santa Maria. Roxy's been running from her past for years and isn't pleased to be back home. Santa Maria is different, and the Brayburn's are special. Magic runs through their veins. And now that Mayhem's found her way home, that magic is in her too. Can she use it for good, or will vigilante justice change Mayhem for the worse?

I liked this book, but I wanted to love it, and I just didn't love it. There was an interesting basis for the plot line, but unfortunately, so much of the story felt shallow and just seemed to lack so much in terms of the story. I liked Mayhem, as well as plenty of the other characters, but the story itself felt incredibly rushed, and so I kept waiting for more.

At the beginning of the book, there was a disclaimer about sexual assault being a basis of the story. The way the book is formatted, there are several chapters from Mayhem's perspective (the majority of the book), and then there were a sprinkling of chapters in the book that were letters from multiple generations of Brayburn women (no worries - these aren't spoilers). The assault was a non-graphic scene in one of these chapters. The author's note discussed using that scene and how she did not go about writing that scene lightly, however, I felt it was unnecessary. I do think that fiction novels based off #metoo can be really powerful (for example, The Whisper Network was absolutely incredible and one really well). I didn't think it was powerful here. Oftentimes, in works of fiction, bad guys are made to be rapists so we know they're bad - they can still be bad guys without raping people. They can be misogynists and sexists. There is still a reason to smash the patriarchy without bringing assault into the picture. This novel also had a lot of basis in abuse.

I can see where the connections were made to The Lost Boys and The Craft, but I would never describe this book as "The Lost Boys meets The Craft." And I would certainly connect Mayhem to The Craft more than The Lost Boys, though that may have been an inspiration.

"You do not deserve to be hit. Any man who hits a woman or child is subhuman and should be crushed like a cockroach, which is what he is." - Mayhem, Estelle Laure

I enjoyed the story itself. I mostly liked the characters. But I wish the historical letters would've been parts of the story in a different way - them being letters seemed odd and honestly didn't make much sense in terms of the story. Like, why were the letters even written anyways. And what was the connection to birds? I don't know - just too much was left unexplained. I really wish it would've been executed better. There was so much potential, but the book just felt so sensational.

Goodreads rating: ★★★☆☆

*Thanks to Netgalley for the digital review copy. All opinions are entirely my own.

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