Book Review: The Seventh Mansion by Maryse Meijer

Xie and his friends want to fight for animals rights and environmental activism, but it's difficult when they're still in high school, and Xie is still on probation after getting caught freeing minks. And when Xie finds the skeleton of a saint, he finds it hard not to be distracted by the pull he feels to it.

Book Cover - The Seventh Mansion by Maryse Meijer
Title: The Seventh Mansion
Pages: 175
My Rating: 3 Stars
More Info: Goodreads // Amazon // Publisher


Weirdly enough, I’m not giving this a mid rating for the skeleton sex or the unusual writing choices, which might seem like the obvious reasons upon learning about this book. It was actually just that I never felt drawn in or that invested.

Now, the writing. I listened to this with TTS, as I do with most books (unless I’m listening to the actual audiobook), so this didn’t affect my experience much. But the book is written in a unique sort of way. There are no paragraphs, just walls of text, separated by scene. There are no quotation marks or new lines or indications of dialogue, oftentimes not even a dialogue tag. There’s no italics for what I assume are Xie’s direct thoughts. There are lots of sentence fragments. The POV switches between 3rd and 2nd person often, though both seem to be Xie’s POV, but then again maybe not? Perhaps it was all meant to be a sort of stream of consciousness. Perhaps meant to portray the character more or evoke a certain vibe or feeling. I sort of think it’s cool for authors to try different things. And like I said, it wasn’t really a problem for me because TTS doesn’t have quotes or different voices or visual indicators of anything, since it’s all auditory, so I’m already used to parsing dialogue and whatnot. And the other sort of unusual things were easy enough for me to roll with. But I recognize that people reading it the normal way might feel differently.

Unfortunately, I just never really got into the book. I think I just didn’t feel much of anything? Stakes, tension, excitement, intrigue. I don’t need a bunch of action, I’ve come to enjoy slice-of-life or meandering kinda books when they’re done well, but this just didn’t capture my interest. Which is sorta strange because…

I do think Xie was a fairly interesting character. He seemed like the world had broken him. And, you know, I can relate. The world has so many bad things, so many things wrong, it’s hard not to be broken by something. For Xie, it was how people treat animals and the environment. It hit him so hard one day that he became depressed and withdrawn. But he also wanted to do something about it. He could be very self-involved, not even considering the problems of others, but he could also be caring and go out of his way to help. And he had a certain unique, ah, quirk? He was attracted to bones. Skeletons. And yes, he does have sex with one (as much as you can call it sex, since it was an inanimate object). His love for and attraction to the skeleton, the way it was described, was strange but also sort of fascinating.

All the characters felt complex and flawed, actually. Like Xie’s dad, who wasn’t perfect, but you could tell he was trying his best to support his son. He didn’t always know what to do, but he was trying to figure it out. He was the parent who stuck with Xie, left California when Xie had a sort of breakdown and needed to get away from there, drove him to the protest he wanted to go to, etc.

Anyway, how do environmental activism and skeleton sex relate? Do they relate? I don’t know, but they were the two main things in this book. There was Xie and his friends trying to save the world, and there was Xie being in love with and having sex with the skeleton of a dead 14-year-old saint whose spirit manifested and visited him. Or maybe Xie imagined the spirit, I suppose that’s up to interpretation.

So I would say this is one of those books that may or may not have fantasy elements. Also a coming-of-age story. A teen main character, but I would not categorize it as YA. Sort of LGBT+ too, though that’s a little unclear, since Xie isn’t attracted to anyone who is still alive with flesh on their body, but the skeleton/spirit is a boy.

I don’t know. I guess I just didn’t see in this book what all the 4 and 5-star reviews did. But it was cool to try something unusual and different.

*Rating: 3 Stars // Read Date: 2022 // Format: Ebook via TTS*


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