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MAYFLY is a spectacular debut that will have fans of post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction on the edge of their seats. Jeff Sweat has created a fantastic blend of edgy and smart with an extra helping of thrills added in for good measure.

We first meet Jemma, a scavenger living in the hills of Holy Wood in Ell Aye. She is one of the girls tasked with going into the abandoned streets to search and find any item that could be of use to their community. But as her fifteenth birthday approaches, she faces the reality that her time as scavenger is over. It’s time for her to become a Mama. It’s her duty as a member of her tribe, since no one lives over the age of 17.

Apple is a Muscle, strong and brave, his role in their enclave is to protect the scavengers from the enemies that surround them. Survival has become more important than love, but somehow Jemma and Apple find that they have a strong pull between them. And they don’t want the burden of becoming a Mama to get in their way.

"Sweat keeps the pacing tight, maintaining enough intensity to keep the reader glued to each page....the absolute thorough attention to detail in language and understanding of their world is impressive."

Forced to leave, they find themselves along with a mysterious exiled boy on a search for answers. Claiming to know what is causing them to die, this strange boy leads them farther from the Holy Wood than they’ve ever been before. But every question leads to another, and they have to face the possibility that The End is nearer all of them than they ever imagined.

Outside of a brief introduction of terms at the very beginning, the reader is thrown into this new world in the future with little explanation. All we know is that the story takes place in Ell Aye, a future LA where things have gone very, very wrong. I live for smart dystopian and MAYFLY delivers spectacularly! Sweat gives enough hints to know what these Children are seeing, but narrates through their eyes. The effect is so clever, that while I was trying to figure out what happened in this world, I was constantly blown away by the creativity and attention to detail Sweat puts into the future world he’s built.

The consistency and execution is incredible. Sweat keeps the pacing tight, maintaining enough intensity to keep the reader glued to each page. Beyond that, the absolute thorough attention to detail in language and understanding of their world is impressive. This is a world where all adults simply ceased to live. Children don’t live past seventeen. It isn’t difficult to imagine the way nuances of our modern life would disappear.

Jemma is an amazing character. She is strong, yet doesn’t see herself that way. She doubts the world and fights against accepting things simply because she’s told. Yet, for all her stubbornness, she is willing to constantly make the difficult choices, even if that means putting what she wants last. I loved reading how she views herself versus how Apple views her. It gives this book the heart it needs to tackle such a brutal world.

MAYFLY is as much a thriller as a post-apocalyptic dystopian. There are so many twists and turns, and none are predictable. I felt out of breath the entire time I was reading. Jemma and Apple are navigating the world beyond their safe tribe, but the added mystery of the plague combined with the very real sense that time is ticking down for them gives this novel a fast-paced intensity that will appeal to fans of dystopians and thrillers in equal measure.

There are a few scenes with violent fights which readers should be aware of. This is a book about the unflinching need for survival, and it can be brutal. There is also an attempted rape, though it is brief and not graphic. The emotional response is portrayed very realistically, which could be difficult for readers sensitive to that topic.

MAYFLY is the first in a series with an end that is satisfying while also leaving readers desperately wanting more. Fans of dystopian, post-apocalyptic fiction and thrillers will be enthralled in this new world. I, for one, cannot wait to read what happens next!

Reviewed by Jena Brown on May 29, 2018

by Jeff Sweat