In spite of her attempts at social invisibility, within a week Mimi is elevated above the other unusual students and invited into their exclusive “gifted” program, which—until she joins them—consists of only six kids. There, she learns that she is not insane, her ghosts are real, and her presence in the program completes a circle. The “gifts” of these seven kids are all different: everything from empathy to animal control to conjuration. And Mimi? She’s a necromancer. She “calls the dead.”
And here I thought I was weird, back in high school, being in chess club.
THE SEVENTH, by S.d. Wasley, isn’t so much a coming-of-age story as it is an emerging-from-the-shell story. Mimi is, at first, quiet and withdrawn, filled with self-doubt and a lifetime’s worth of insecurities—brought on by years of labeling by her peers and her parents’ misguided attempts to somehow cure her of her oddities. As the tale progresses and Mimi comes to understand that she is not, in fact, broken in any way, our hero emerges as everything she never thought she could be: brave, outgoing, even popular. And, as unthinkable as it may at one time have been, beautiful.
There’s a lot of teenage dating drama in the first half of this book. Seriously, I haven’t seen so much angst since J.K. Rowling introduced her American readers to the word “snogging” in Order of the Phoenix. And that’s okay, even if that’s not your genre. What Wasley has going for her here is that most of the players in this drama are just so insufferably likeable, the reader doesn’t know who to root for in the dating game and who to pity. When the reader’s that invested in the characters, even the most jaded of us can comfortably genre-hop our norms and find ourselves engaged in the action.
Some of these characters appear on the surface as familiar archetypes: the surfer, the match-maker, the death metal Goth kid, the shrinking violet—each of them further characterized by whatever gift, our power, they are gradually learning to master. Wasley, however, manages to deconstruct our first impressions and peel the outer layers away, revealing complex and unexpected individuals who struggle to discover not only what they are, but also why they are.
If there’s anything missing here, it’s an iconic (or, at least, present) antagonist. Or so it seems in the early running. But Wasley has that covered, in the end, too—and the way she plots her story makes it clear that she was aware of this threat from the outset. You have to get to the end of the book to know where S.d. Wasley was going from the beginning. By the time Mimi has to confront this emerging menace head-on, the reader has realized that Wasley had all of this carefully planned before she invited us along. Now that her tale is ready, we are guided by a steady, sure hand.
But it really is Mimi who keeps us reading. There’s something in her we all wish for and few of us have. When Mimi realizes her own self worth, she refuses to let go of it. When she’s given a purpose, she embraces it. When faced with the prospect of danger she cannot avoid, she’s unwilling to surrender to the fear of it. Mimi’s journey and transformation, so far removed from the bleak young soul we met at the beginning of the book, is where the true magic of this story lies.