Cover of We Are Mayhem, featuring a feminine individual with muscular arms and buzzed red hair crouching

About the Book

Title: We Are Mayhem
Published: 2024

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charms: Heck Yes
Talky Talk: Powerful
Bonus Factors: Wrestling, Spunky Friend, Kickass Grams
Relationship Status: Holding a “Let Me Fly With You Birdie” Sign

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

GIF from Montell Jordan's music video "This Is How We Do It"

OK, hear me out. I know this is an illustrated cover. I know we are all tired of illustrated covers. But I love the messiness of this one, the way it looks part-zine, part-polished. And the depiction of Birdie is near perfect. (Although I’m not sure they’d wear that top, not at first.) I’m a fan!

The Deal: 

Birdie’s struggling to find her place in the world. Her family recently moved to upstate New York, a place they used to “summer” that’s far removed from their former neighborhood in New Jersey. Her “best friend” Lexie is more concerned with making the cheerleading squad than realizing that Birdie has no interest in becoming a cheerleader. Her sister is searching for more views and more viral moments, and doesn’t see that Birdie’s not entirely sure that the pronouns people have used for her entire life fit. And the local indie wrestling crew doesn’t see that Birdie, although intrigued by the idea of using their strength in a ring, doesn’t know if she can be the confident person they need to be to become a star.

BFF Charms: Heck Yes

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

Birdie is spectacular, and given a bit of time, comes to realize that. They’re absolutely someone I’d love to be friends with, from their killer style (which she doesn’t think she has) to their confidence in knowing who she is (although that doesn’t happen until near the end of the book). She’s powerful, both physically and emotionally, and will be the best kind of human given a bit of growing. Please take my BFF charm, Birdie! I’m pleading here!

(Ed. note/semi-spoiler: Birdie determines by the end of the novel that they’re nonbinary, and use they/she pronouns, although she uses just she for most of the book. I’m not sure that I’m using the mix properly, and if I am not, I sincerely apologize.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

Birdie’s more concerned with figuring out herself and if she wants to be a wrestler to have any sort of relationship. But if I were to rate this on a self-love scale, it would be a solid 8.

Talky Talk: Powerful

Although We Are Mayhem is a story about breaking down gender binaries in indie wresting, it’s also a book about finding one’s identity and realizing that who you are doesn’t have to fit in a mold anyone else uses. Birdie is a brilliant narrator, and the thoughts she has (thanks to Rourke-Mooney) are exactly the kind of powerful that folks in her shoes—or, really, anyone struggling with self-acceptance—need to hear.

There’s a difference between being Bird and being little Birdie. Birdie is the girl I was raised as. Bird is the person I am. It turns out I don’t have to wear makeup, or move my body in a different way to grow up. I can just be me. Only … older.

Someone I can’t ever grow out of, or apart from.

As expansive as the wilderness itself.

Bonus Factor: Wresting

A man in tight shorts and kneepads with a grimace on his face carries a person on his shoulder

I’ve never gotten into wrestling, but I can certainly see the appeal. Especially after reading about Birdie’s experience with Mayhem and the various other groups she comes across in the book. 

Bonus Factor: Spunky Friend

Lane Kim from Gilmore Girls wearing a Trust God t-shirt

At the start of the novel, Birdie’s trying to fit in by following her best friend Lexie’s lead. Even when it comes to making fun of the “town weirdo,” a girl named Abigail Roosevelt Mayer—Abigail Rose—and her family of misfits. It’s not until Birdie is forced to hang out with Abigail, through a very bad decision on their part, that they realize how great she actually is.

Bonus Factor: Kickass Grams

Betty White, who plays a wacky grandmother, emphasizing Sandra Bullock's flat chest in The Proposal

Abigail’s grandmother, Mabel, was a badass wrestler in her prime, and is the face behind the Mayhem troupe. Although she doesn’t wrestle any longer, she’s still a Force to be reckoned with, from the femal symbol tattooed on her forehead to the ease with which she wields a shotgun. (Not to mention her shop, in which she sells things she’s made from various animal bones and taxidermied mice dressed up as famous wrestlers.)

“That’s the thing, Mabel,” I say as she pulls down my driveway. “I’m not a fighter.”

“Honey, you’re a woman.” She shifts the Thunderbird into park and looks me straight in the eyes. “You were born fighting.”

Relationship Status: Holding a “Let Me Fly With You Birdie” Sign

I’m a fan, Book, and not just of your wrestling prowess. You’re an important read but also a truly fun and engaging one. I’m thinking of quitting my job and following you on your grand tour of wrestling events, ’cause I know you’re gonna be huge!

Literary Matchmaking

Bianca Torre is Afraid of Everything

The main character of Justine Pucella Winans’s Bianca Torre is Afraid of Everything is also going through struggles with personal identity—while solving a possible murder.

Wild Beauty

Birdie reminded me a lot of the main character of Anna-Marie McLemore’s Wild Beauty, down to their wish to be free of gender “norms.”

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk and Robot #1)

Becky Chambers’s A Psalm for the Wild Built is a great novella for anyone who needs to see a nonbinary character just going about their life, not being a “thing” for others to dissect and discuss.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Feiwel & Friends, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. We Are Mayhem is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.