It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else.
But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good.
But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.
From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.
Estelle Laure, the author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back believes in love, magic, and the power of facing hard truths. She has a BA in Theatre Arts and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and she lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her family. Her work is translated widely around the world.
Chapter Three Santa Maria
“Trouble,” Roxy says. She arches a brow at the kids by the van through the bug-spattered windshield, the ghost of a half-smile rippling across her face.
“You would know,” I shoot. “So would you,” she snaps.
Maybe we’re a little on edge. We’ve been in the car so long the pattern on the vinyl seats is tattooed on the back of my thighs.
The kids my mother is talking about, the ones sitting on the white picket fence, look like they slithered up the hill out of the ocean, covered in seaweed, like the carnival music we heard coming from the boardwalk as we were driving into town plays in the air around them at all times. Two crows are on the posts beside them like they’re standing guard, and they caw at each other loudly as we come to a stop. I love every- thing about this place immediately and I think, ridiculously, that I am no longer alone.
The older girl, white but tan, curvaceous, and lean, has her arms around the boy and is lovely with her smudged eye makeup and her ripped clothes. The younger one pops some- thing made of bright colors into her mouth and watches us come up the drive. She is in a military-style jacket with a ton of buttons, her frizzy blond hair reaching in all directions, freckles slapped across her cheeks. And the boy? Thin, brown,
hungry-looking. Not hungry in his stomach. Hungry with his eyes. He has a green bandana tied across his forehead and holes in the knees of his jeans. There’s an A in a circle drawn in marker across the front of his T-shirt.
“Look!” Roxy points to the gas gauge. It’s just above the E. “You owe me five bucks, Cookie. I told you to trust we would make it, and see what happened? You should listen to your mama every once in a while.”
“Yeah, well, can I borrow the five bucks to pay you for the bet? I’m fresh out of cash at the moment.”
Roxy cranes out the window and wipes the sweat off her upper lip, careful not to smudge her red lipstick. She’s been having real bad aches the last two days, even aside from her bruises, and her appetite’s been worse than ever. The only thing she ever wants is sugar. After having been in the car for so long, you’d think we’d be falling all over each other to get out, but we’re still sitting in the car. In here we’re still us.
She sighs for the thousandth time and clutches at her belly. “I don’t know about this, May.”
California can’t be that different from West Texas.
I watch TV. I know how to say gag me with a spoon and
grody to the max.
I fling open the door.
Roxy gathers her cigarettes and lighter, and drops them in- side her purse with a snap.
“Goddammit, Elle,” she mutters to herself, eyes flickering toward the kids again. Roxy looks at me over the rims of her sunglasses before shoving them back on her nose. “Mayhem, I’m counting on you to keep your head together here. Those kids are not the usual—”
“I know! You told me they’re foster kids.”
“No, not that,” she says, but doesn’t clarify. “Okay, I guess.”
“I mean it. No more of that wild-child business.”
“I will keep my head together!” I’m so tired of her saying this. I never had any friends, never a boyfriend—all I have is what Grandmother calls my nasty mouth and the hair Lyle always said was ugly and whorish. And once or twice I might’ve got drunk on the roof, but it’s not like I ever did anything. Besides, no kid my age has ever liked me even once. I’m not the wild child in the family.
“Well, all right then.” Roxy messes with her hair in the rear- view mirror, then sprays herself with a cloud of Chanel No. 5 and runs her fingers over her gold necklace. It’s of a bird, not unlike the ones making a fuss by the house. She’s had it as long as I can remember, and over time it’s been worn smooth by her worrying fingers. It’s like she uses it to calm herself when she’s upset about something, and she’s been upset the whole way here, practically. Usually, she’d be good and buzzed by this time of day, but since she’s had to drive some, she’s only nipped from the tiny bottle of wine in her purse a few times and only taken a couple pills since we left Taylor. The with- drawal has turned her into a bit of a she-demon.
I try to look through her eyes, to see what she sees. Roxy hasn’t been back here since I was three years old, and in that time, her mother has died, her father has died, and like she said when she got the card with the picture enclosed that her twin sister, Elle, sent last Christmas, Everybody got old. After that, she spent a lot of time staring in the mirror, pinching at her neck skin. When I was younger, she passed long nights telling me about Santa Maria and the Brayburn Farm, about how it was good and evil in equal measure, about how it had desires that had to be satisfied.
Brayburns, she would say. In my town, we were the legends.
These were the mumbled stories of my childhood, and they made everything about this place loom large. Now that we’re here, I realize I expected the house to have a gaping maw filled with spitty, frothy teeth, as much as I figured there would be fairies flitting around with wands granting wishes. I don’t want to take her vision away from her, but this place looks pretty normal to me, if run-down compared to our new house in Taylor, where there’s no dust anywhere, ever, and Lyle prac- tically keeps the cans of soup in alphabetical order. Maybe what’s not so normal is that this place was built by Brayburns, and here Brayburns matter. I know because the whole road is named after us and because flowers and ribbons and baskets of fruit sat at the entrance, gifts from the people in town, Roxy said. They leave offerings. She said it like it’s normal to be treated like some kind of low-rent goddess.
Other than the van and the kids, there are trees here, rose- bushes, an old black Mercedes, and some bikes leaning against the porch that’s attached to the house. It’s splashed with fresh white paint that doesn’t quite cover up its wrinkles and scars. It’s three stories, so it cuts the sunset when I look up, and plants drape down to touch the dirt.
The front door swings open and a woman in bare feet races past the rosebushes toward us. It is those feet and the reckless way they pound against the earth that tells me this is my aunt Elle before her face does. My stomach gallops and there are bumps all over my arms, and I am more awake than I’ve been since.
I thought Roxy might do a lot of things when she saw her twin sister. Like she might get super quiet or chain-smoke, or maybe even get biting like she can when she’s feeling wrong about something. The last thing I would have ever imagined was them running toward each other and colliding in the driveway, Roxy wrapping her legs around Elle’s waist, and them twirling like that.
This seems like something I shouldn’t be seeing, some- thing wounded and private that fills up my throat. I flip my- self around in my seat and start picking through the things we brought and chide myself yet again for the miserable packing job I did. Since I was basically out of my mind trying to get out of the house, I took a whole package of toothbrushes, an armful of books, my River Phoenix poster, plus I emptied out my underwear drawer, but totally forgot to pack any shoes, so all I have are some flip-flops I bought at the truck stop outside of Las Cruces after that man came to the window, slurring, You got nice legs. Tap, tap tap. You got such nice legs.
My flip-flops are covered in Cheeto dust from a bag that got upended. I slip them on anyway, watching Roxy take her sunglasses off and prop them on her head.
“Son of a bitch!” my aunt says, her voice tinny as she catches sight of Roxy’s eye. “Oh my God, that’s really bad, Rox. You made it sound like nothing. That’s not nothing.”
“Ellie,” Roxy says, trying to put laughter in her voice. “I’m here now. We’re here now.”
There’s a pause.
“You look the same,” Elle says. “Except the hair. You went full Marilyn Monroe.”
“What about you?” Roxy says, fussing at her platinum waves with her palm. “You go full granola warrior? When’s the last time you ate a burger?”
“You know I don’t do that. It’s no good for us. Definitely no good for the poor cows.”
“It’s fine for me.” Roxy lifts Elle’s arm and puckers her nose. “What’s going on with your armpits? May not eat meat but you got animals under there, looks like.”
“Shaving is subjugation.”
“Shaving is a mercy for all mankind.”
They erupt into laughter and hug each other again.
“Well, where is she, my little baby niece?” Elle swings the car door open. “Oh, Mayhem.” She scoops me out with two strong arms. Right then I realize just how truly tired I am. She seems to know, squeezes extra hard for a second before letting me go. She smells like the sandalwood soap Roxy buys sometimes. “My baby girl,” Elle says, “you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to see you. How much I’ve missed you.”
Roxy circles her ear with a finger where Elle can’t see her.
Crazy, she mouths. I almost giggle.
Letter From The Author:
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 The Lost Boys back 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.
by Julie Lee
Publisher: Holiday House
Release Date: June 16th 2020
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Juvenile, Childrens
Can two children escape North Korea on their own?
North Korea. December, 1950.
Twelve-year-old Sora and her family live under an iron set of rules: No travel without a permit. No criticism of the government. No absences from Communist meetings. Wear red. Hang pictures of the Great Leader. Don’t trust your neighbors. Don’t speak your mind. You are being watched.
But war is coming, war between North and South Korea, between the Soviets and the Americans. War causes chaos–and war is the perfect time to escape. The plan is simple: Sora and her family will walk hundreds of miles to the South Korean city of Busan from their tiny mountain village. They just need to avoid napalm, frostbite, border guards, and enemy soldiers.
But they can’t. And when an incendiary bombing changes everything, Sora and her little brother Young will have to get to Busan on their own. Can a twelve-year-old girl and her eight-year-old brother survive three hundred miles of warzone in winter?
Haunting, timely, and beautiful, this harrowing novel from a searing new talent offers readers a glimpse into a vanished time and a closed nation.
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Julie Lee graduated from Cornell University with a degree in history. After working in market research in Manhattan for over ten years, she decided to pursue writing full-time. Currently, Julie lives in Georgia with her husband and three children. When she is not spending time with her family, she is working on her next book while pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Brother’s Keeper is her debut novel.
Splinters of Scarlet
by Emily Bain Murphy
Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers
Release Date: July 21st 2020
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Enchantée meets Downton Abbey in this atmospheric YA historical fantasy set in nineteenth-century Denmark, where secrets can kill and magic is a deadly gift.
For Marit Olsen, magic is all about strategy: it flows freely through her blood, but every use leaves behind a deadly, ice-like build-up within her veins called the Firn. Marit knows how dangerous it is to let too much Firn build up—after all, it killed her sister—and she has vowed never to use her thread magic. But when Eve, a fellow orphan whom Marit views like a little sister, is adopted by the wealthy Helene Vestergaard, Marit will do anything to stay by Eve’s side. She decides to risk the Firn and uses magic to secure a job as a seamstress in the Vestergaard household.
But Marit has a second, hidden agenda: her father died while working in the Vestergaards’ jewel mines—and it might not have been an accident. The closer Marit gets to the truth about the Vestergaard family, the more she realizes she and everyone she’s come to love are in danger. When she finds herself in the middle of a treacherous deception that goes all the way up to the king of Denmark, magic may be the only thing that can save her—if it doesn’t kill her first.
Emily Bain Murphy was born in Indiana and raised in Hong Kong and Japan. She graduated from Tufts University and has also called Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California home.
Murphy is the author of The Disappearances, which was a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, an ALAN Pick, and shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Book Prize. Splinters of Scarlet, Murphy’s second YA historical fantasy, will be published in 2020.
Murphy is represented by Peter Knapp at Park & Fine Literary and Media. She currently lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two children. Follow her online on Twitter @EBain and on Instagram @emilybainmurphy.
by Jennifer Honeybourn
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: July 14th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Fiction
A teenage girl gets the chance to redo her past in this smart and charming YA novel by the author of When Life Gives You Demons.
Emilia has always wanted to fit in with the A crowd. So, when Ben, the hottest guy in school, asks her out, she chooses him over Alistair, her best friend—even after he confesses his feelings to her.
Six months later, Emilia wonders how her life would have been different if she’d chosen Alistair instead. Haunted by her mistake, she finds a magical solution that promises to rectify the past. As a result, everything in her life is different. What happens if her second chance is her only chance to make things right?
Jennifer Honeybourn is a fan of British accents, Broadway musicals, and epic, happily-ever-after love stories. If she could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, she’d have high tea with Walt Disney, JK Rowling, and her nana. She lives in Stratford, Ontario with her husband, daughter and cat in a house filled with books.
She is represented by Hannah Fergesen at KT Literary.
After the Worst Thing Happens
by Audrey Vernick
Publisher: Margaret Ferguson Books
Release Date: May 5th 2020
Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Death
Left reeling after her thoughtless mistake causes a terrible accident, 12-year-old Army Morand channels her grief to help someone in need.
Army Morand feels like her life has been blown to bits when the worst thing imaginable happens–her beloved dog dies. It was an accident, but it was also Army’s fault. She can’t seem to stop hiding from everything and everybody including her best friend JennaLouise.
But then Army sees Madison, the little girl who moved in across the way, climbing a tree and walking down the street unsupervised. Her family is not neglectful, just overwhelmed. Army finds herself overcome with the need to help Madison’s family to make sure another worst thing doesn’t happen–which becomes even more challenging when a big storm threatens her town.
Audrey grew up in Whitestone, New York, where she lived with her parents and two sisters and a not very bright small white dog. She has a freaky memory about the names of the kids in her class at P.S. 184Q, and even remembers where most of them stood in size order.
She always loved to read and still rereads Harriet the Spy on a regular basis. She was not one of those children who always knew she wanted to be a writer; she didn’t love to write until college. She’s been writing ever since.
In addition to writing for children, Audrey has published more than a dozen short stories for adults in magazines and literary journals. She received an mfa from Sarah Lawrence College.
Audrey divides her time between writing (which is mostly spent revising) and visiting elementary schools to talk about writing and publishing. (For school visit info, click here.) She also speaks at conferences around the country.
She lives near the ocean in New Jersey with her family. and one fairly intelligent medium-sized black dog.
Audrey Vernick received a 2019 Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
The Archibald Lox series (Archibald Lox)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Synopsis (Book #1):
There is a universe beyond our own, known as the Merge.
A young locksmith called Archibald Lox is about to cross worlds and explore it.
As he learns about these lands of wonders, he will have to face cold-blooded killers, rivers of blood, hell jackals and more…
Synopsis (Book #2):
Archie thought he was finished with the Merge, but he was wrong.
Teaming up again with Inez, they must pit their wits against the infamous Empress of Suanpan.
In a city of gamblers, Archie must stake everything he owns, even his freedom…
Synopsis (Book #3):
The end of Inez’s mission is in sight, but the most difficult part is still to come.
Archie is determined to help save an entire realm from falling under the rule of the vicious SubMerged.
But old foes stand in his way, and the greatest challenge of his life awaits…
Goodreads (Book #3): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52887194-archibald-lox-and-the-vote-of-alignment
Amazon (all 3 books): https://amzn.to/3fsQHDY
Darren Shan is the globally bestselling author whose breakthrough debut novel, Cirque Du Freak, the first book in the 12-book series, was released in January 2000. Since then, he has published more than fifty books for both children and adults including the 10-book Demonata series and 12-book Zom-B series. Cirque Du Freak was adapted into a major Hollywood movie and it was recently announced that his Zom-B series was bought to be adapted for television. Shan’s books have sold in excess of twenty-five million copies worldwide, in 40 countries and 32 languages. He has made bestseller charts in the USA, UK, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, and elsewhere. He lives in a small village in Limerick, Ireland, with his wife and children. Find Darren online at http://www.darrenshan.com and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.