Publication Date: June 6th, 2023
Hardcover. 288 pages.
About Maeve Fly:
"By day, Maeve Fly works at the happiest place in the world as every child’s favorite ice princess.
By the neon night glow of the Sunset Strip, Maeve haunts the dive bars with a drink in one hand and a book in the other, imitating her misanthropic literary heroes.
But when Gideon Green - her best friend’s brother - moves to town, he awakens something dangerous within her, and the world she knows suddenly shifts beneath her feet.
Untethered, Maeve ditches her discontented act and tries on a new persona. A bolder, bloodier one, inspired by the pages of American Psycho. Step aside Patrick Bateman, it’s Maeve’s turn with the knife."
Maeve Fly is not for the fainthearted, and I really mean that. Stephen Graham Jones blurbed this as "gory and brutal and beautiful and painful and terrifying and a pure delight," and I couldn't agree more with that. This is horror that is centered around its characters, but that does not mean it is without plenty of gore, violence, and other things that the squeamish would probably prefer to avoid. There is a relentlessness to the sex and violence portrayed in this book and the perverse nature of it is certainly not going to be for everyone. That being said, if you are able to stick with it, it's going to be one ride that you are not going to be forgetting any time soon, and I would even go as far to say that you'll end up as riveted by it as I was.
Maeve Fly follows Maeve, a somewhat unsympathetic character who has recently moved in with her grandmother in Los Angeles and works as a meet-and-greet princess at a popular theme park nearby (yes, it's most likely what you're thinking of) with her fellow princess friend, Kate. There's not all that much in the way of hard plot going on outside of following Maeve in her new life and observing her adaptation, exploration, and descent of her own life, but it is this character exploration that really carries the story. Her grandmother is currently on her deathbed, unresponsive due to a recent medical event, and as Maeve struggles to come to terms with this development she instead spends her time at work and partaking in a variety of unique (and, uh, slightly concerning?) personal activities. Maeve cares deeply for Kate, and soon develops much stronger feelings for a man named Gideon who shows up in her life as well, which leads her down some difficult paths as she tries to make sense of her feelings.
Maeve has a penchant for what most people would describe as 'dark things,' and this is hallmarked by her love for Halloween and Halloween music (which I'll agree is pretty fun), among other things. Maeve has a difficult personality to connect with and a somewhat stilted worldview, which makes her a fascinating character who brings something new to the table. She is very much someone who seems to be attempting to find herself and sort of throws herself into a variety of different things to do so, many of which are very questionable and seem to her left her with a somewhat misanthropic worldview at times, and she almost seems to treat the entire world as her own experiment (some of her free time is spent attempting to get random people 'cancelled' online and to ruin their lives, for example). I found Maeve absolutely fascinating, and I was so impressed by how well C.J. Leede was able to craft her narrative voice. She has an incredibly strong voice that I found utterly compelling, and as I listened to the audiobook I found myself nearly on the edge of my seating just waiting to hear what our protagonist would say next.
As mentioned, Maeve Fly takes place largely in LA and surrounding areas, and I really think Leede captured aspects of it incredibly well. I saw one blurb describe this as "a blood-soaked love letter to Los Angeles," and that's exactly what it is. It's hard to describe, but it almost felt as though as it was a bit of a blend of satire, commentary, honestly, and a hint of fantasy in its tone when describing LA. I grew up in the greater LA areas and currently live in the middle of LA and I found myself utterly entertained by Maeve's consistent narration of the city and its people. She really hits the nail on the head at times while also maintaining an extra layer of almost stereotypical perceptions that I think made this that much more fun.
The atmosphere is deliciously dark, at times almost nihilistic, and has a strong sense of morbid curiosity that is present throughout the entire story. Maeve Fly is a hard book to nail down succinctly, but I would say the tone often alternately shifts between being rather manic and unhinged and being contemplative and reflective. I loved the morbidity in this book and how Maeve (and therefore author) didn't really seem to find any topic off limits. Maeve wasn't afraid to try out the darkest and most unhinged thoughts that crossed her mind, and she explored the depths of depravity to her heart's content. Although this is not behavior that should be replicated, of course, I found a strange sense of awe watching her navigate her current life.
This is a book that really draws on the idea of a gradual descent from dark longings and occasional questionable missteps to what eventually become sudden shifts from sanity to absurdity. It's that idea of having dark thoughts, tentatively acting some out, then one big things happens out of necessity, and after that it's almost a deluge of events that make it harder and harder to maintain a grasp on reality.
The ending of Maeve Fly was one of the most brutally tragic and heartbreaking for so many different reasons, and its one that readers can almost see coming, but you still have to wait and find out along with Maeve how it's going to pan out anyway. This book is not afraid to test boundaries and to make a mark, and I think it absolutely succeeded in both of those. It's weird sometimes to say that I loved a book like this because of how fucked up it is, but I did. This book spoke to me on a weird level and I had a hell of a time on this adventure.
If you're ready for heavily graphic scenes and open discussion of dark topics, then I would absolutely recommend this one. It was ultimately a rewarding and unforgettable experience and sure to be one I'll re-read. I read the audiobook version and it was perfect. Sosie Bacon did an excellent job and I would highly recommend the audio version if you like audiobooks. Overall, I've given Maeve Fly five stars!
*I received a copy of Maeve Fly courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Buy the book: Amazon | Bookshop.org