I just finished reading this sweet YA novel and I have to say, it was pretty emotional. I was sent this book by Hot Key Books and I am so glad. But where to begin. So, ‘The Electrical Venus’ by Julie Mayhew is a YA novel, I wouldn’t consider it fantasy but it definitely has fantastical elements I think a fantasy lover would like.
The story revolves around a young girl named Mim, she’s ‘exotic’ being of mixed skin colour, but she’s also a glorified slave in a travelling show. The only person she really has for friendship is a one-armed boy and a green parrot named George. However she soon realises her future in the show may be cut short due to her lack of profitability. She doesn’t have an act worth paying for, and as much as her one-armed companion tries to help her become something more, she knows deep-down that she will soon be sold. Until an unusual man enters her life by the name of Sebastian. He is a scientist of sorts with an answer to her prayers. He notices her beauty and helps her discover a potential routine with the use of electricity. In honesty, it’s quite barbaric. He sends electrical currents through her, lighting her up like a Christmas tree, then invites random strangers in the crowd to kiss her for money. Many a customer are intrigued, to feel the spark of ‘love’ as they literally get a taste of electrocution through her lips.
This act becomes quite the spectacle and draws crowds from far and wide. Mim believes she is bettering herself, losing herself in the heady heights of fame and fortune, no longer one of the common folk like her old arm-less friend Alex. Eventually Sebastian takes Mim away from the show, stealing her away in the night. Much to Alex’s upset. But Mim soon realises Sebastian is not all he appears, and that he would as easy ‘lend’ her to other men as any other. No, it was not love that they shared. So she runs back to the show, only to find Alex has created his own wonderful act and is with another lady. But of course, they eventually come up with a better act that they can both share, and their true love is realised. It’s all very dramatic.
In truth, I found the story a bit slow in the middle, but when it gets to those fiery bits, you’ll be happy you waited. Mayhew builds tension like no other, positively choking us with it. Mim is a great character, naive for sure but positively hopeful. She reminds me of many young girls, waiting to reach their full potential. Naively fumbling about until you figure out what you really want. Alex is by far the most charming of characters, positively electrifying. And George the parrot keeps the spirit of the travelling show alive. I absolutely recommend reading this novel, it’s a nice light read that will make you think about all the opportunities that await you in your life.