Welcome to my stop of Mayhem blog tour!
A HUGE thanks to St. Martin’s Press for the chance to be part of this tour and to NetGalley for the free copy in exchange of an honest review.
TW: rape, violence, beating, drugs, physical and psychological abuse, murder, suicide
Mayhem knows there is something off and weird about her and her family, from the constant pull to water, to her mother Roxy’s mysterious physical pain. Mayhem and Roxy live a life made of lies and secrets, fear and hiding, but when her violent stepfather goes too far, they decided to come back to their family home in Santa Maria, California, a coastal beach town from where 13 years ago Roxy ran away.
What happened there 13 years ago? Ready to get some answers about herself, her family and put their painful past behind them, Mayhem finds herself involved with her aunt’s kids, in the search of a kidnapper, and discovering the magic that runs through the female lineage of her family and what that means for her.
Mayhem is a book full of strong female characters. Told by the main character, Mayhem and from diaries entries from her female ancestors that helps her (and the reader) learn things about the water, the magic and their destiny in Santa Maria, it’s a story about family, found and biological, love, vengeance, destiny, fate and justice. Mayhem is a strong character, strong-willed, curious and ready to change her life, when she decides enough is enough.
Running from her abusive stepfather, looking for answers and a new life, Mayhem discovers magical powers and a destiny that connects her to her family, through generations of strong and stubborn women. Helped by the fierce and brilliant aunt Elle, by her adoptive daughter Neve, full of fire and rage, by Jason and Kidd, the other adoptive brother and sister, Mayhem finds friendship, connections, love and justice and the strength to fight back.
I liked reading about Mayhem and her relationship with Neve, Jason and Kidd, finding her place with them in Santa Maria, with her aunt Elle and her mother’s old friends, Marcy and Boner and trying to become more confident and strong.
I liked the romantic part of the book, present but not able to overshadow her journey in finding her own place and power.
All characters have a painful past, from murders, to abuse, to loss, suicide and so on, but they find a way to fight back, above all through the powers granted by the water, discovering themselves not victims anymore.
It’s interesting reading about how Mayhem changes throughout the book, from a scared, but stubborn daughter, to a teenager more confident, rebellious and ready to do what it takes to not be a victim anymore. Her curiosity, her desire of fight back is beautiful and well written, even though I’d love to see more moral quandary about her whole destiny with the water and Santa Maria, the aspect addressed but left to the future and the choices she will made following her heart and not the water.
The vigilante justice, that Neve embraced so fully and with glee, is seen by Jason, Mayhem’s romantic interest, with difficulty and he refuses to accept his role in it, trying to protect his sister Kidd from the whole situation and regretting his deal with the water.
While Elle accepts with fierceness their roles against abusers and murders, the whole moral quandary is addressed by Jason and, even though briefly, by Mayhem, who struggles with her new identity, but she’s ready to become a new person, not more scared and a victim.
The water itself is almost a character, a it with a desire, able to compel them, to “force” them to follow its will and want, hurting those who try to stay away from it. It’s really peculiar and interesting, seeing as a force, a living thing, able to push and pull the characters in the book.
Her mother Roxy is a complex character. Grieving for her only love, lost 13 years ago, forced, convinced, manipulated by the circumstances into a marriage that became a living hell, her relationship with her daughter Mayhem is strong but codependent.
The fact the Mayhem refers to her as “Roxy” and not “Mum” or “Mother” suggests a codependancy, where usually is Mayhem the one who feels responsible and protective of her mother, sleeping and sticking with her and finding her own place, discovering what she wants to do, only in Santa Maria. The change of scenery force the two women to confront with their past and present, to fight back, to escape their painful past and trying to get a new life, away from memories and violence.
Roxy is seen through Mayhem’s eyes, so the reader is able to sense their love, connection, but also Mayhem’s bitterness, regarding her connection with Lyle, the abusive husband and the difficulty of having a mother who, because of the pain, physichological and physical, started to take meds and alcohol to “survive” and cope with the whole situation.
In Santa Maria, though, Roxy decides to change her life, being more present for Mayhem and her family, connecting herself again with her sister and their lineage.
As addressed while talking about the characters, Mayhem is full of strong messages, like finding your own family, found or biological, finding oneself, deciding to fight back, becoming more confident and refusing to stand back.
“It’s good to be an innocent,” Elle says. “Gives you restraint.”
How do I tell her I don’t want to be an innocent anymore? Innocents get hit. I want to hit back.
(quotes from the earc)
In a world where women struggle to be heard, to have justice and be respected, Mayhem is a supernatural feminist novel where women are able to hurt abusers, able to fight back, to protect themselves and their city. Vigilantes, with the ability to see and feel bad people and their action, the Brayburn family is almost a myth in Santa Maria, but cherished and feared at the same time by the inhabitants thanks to their actions and their protection.
Tired of being mistreated, of the inaction of the police, of the fear in the city, the Brayburn women, since discovering the cave and the water, decided to fight back, cleaning the world of bad people.
I loved the role of the women in this book, how strong, stubborn and beautiful they are, ready to protect their family, loved ones and the city, like superheroines, with mystical powers.
I really liked this book about vengeance, growing up, fighting back and a wonderfully and skillfully written feminist coming-of-age novel.
The book is full of complex and well rounded characters, the story is captivating and intriguing and I recommend this book to those who love strong female characters, mysticism, magic realism, a matriarchal destiny and abusers being punished.
Estelle Laure is a Vonnegut worshipper who believes in love and magic and the power of facing hard truths. She has a BA in Theater Arts from New Mexico State University and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and thinks everyone should have to wait tables or work in a kitchen at least once in their lives. She lives in Taos, New Mexico with her children. (From Goodreads)
NOTE FROM THE AUHOR
Like Mayhem, I experienced a period of time when my life was extremely unstable. I can still remember what it was like to be shaken so hard I thought my head would come off, to watch the room vibrate, to feel unsafe in my own home, to never know what was coming around the next corner. I wanted to run. I always wanted to run.
I ran to friends, but also movies and books, and although girls were more passively portrayed in movies like TheLost Boysback then, that feeling of teenagers prowling the night, taking out bad people, being unbeatable . . . that got me through it.
I guess that’s what I tried to do here. I wanted girls who feel powerless to be able to imagine themselves invincible. And yes, I used a rape as the seed for that fierce lineage, not without thought. For me, there is nothing worse, and I like to think great power can rise up as a result of a devastating trespass.
Please know I took none of this lightly. Writing this now, my heart is beating hard and my throat is dry. This is the first time I not only really looked at my own past, the pain of loss, the pain of the loss of trust that comes when someone puts hands on you without permission, the pain of people dying, the shock of suicide, and put all of it to paper in a way that made me feel victorious, strong, and warrior-like. It is also terrifying. I know I’m not the only one who had a scary childhood, and
I know I’m not the only one who clings to stories as salve to smooth over burnt skin. I am so sick of girls and women being hurt. This was my way of taking my own vengeance and trying to access forgiveness.
Thank you for reading and for those of you who can relate, I see you and you are not alone.