“Mayhem” is a great example of a book that has a winning concept, but completely fails in the execution. I know a lot of the reviews of this title have focused on how similar the text is to the movie “Lost Boys,” but since I haven’t seen the movie, I can’t speak to that. I can only judge the book on the merit of its writing. Unfortunately, there was a lot that took away from my enjoyment of “Mayhem.”
First of all, a fantasy book is made or broken by its mythology, and the magical elements just didn’t work for me in this novel. Mayhem is the name of the teenage protagonist who moves back to her mother’s small town of Santa Maria, California to escape her abusive step-dad. Mayhem learns that her family is given special superpowers if they drink the water in a special cave near their home. The actual powers were a little confusing to me (Teleportation? Seeing people’s sins? Killing someone just with magic?). In my opinion, a book has to have steadfast rules and fully fleshed out details around things like powers so that the reader can fully immerse themselves in the fantasy world.
The structure of this book was rough as well. If this was intended as a first book in a series, I could kind of understand why there was a rush to the climax and then basically no resolution whatsoever. However, the ending left me with tons of questions (which did end up knocking this down from a three-star read to a two-star one). The structure also lacked focus by including diary entries from Mayhem’s female ancestors – I couldn’t keep track of who these women were or what their significance was in terms of the family history.
I love the idea behind this book, that Mayhem serves as a YA feminist who is going to protect her newfound town from evil forces. But it does fall into too many basic tropes that left it feeling unoriginal and stale. For example, I hate how it seems as though every single YA book with a female protagonist has to have a love interest (even if it’s not particularly interesting or necessary at all to the plot).
I’m normally all for a book that has magical elements – when done in the right way, they can bring a special flavor to the story that makes the writing shine. “Mayhem” would have stolen my heart if it had been able to showcase a hero with powers that I actually understood.
*Free ARC provided by Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review*