by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Reviewed by SA
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a graphic novel on here, so I thought I’d try something a little different. I bought Seconds during a stress-induced shopping splurge as I crammed for my finals, and I am so excited to have this awesome book on my shelf. It’s gorgeous, the story is great, and I’m sure to read it again and again.
Katie’s got it pretty good. She’s a talented young chef, she runs a successful restaurant, and she has big plans to open an even better one. Then, all at once, progress on the new location bogs down, her charming ex-boyfriend pops up, her fling with another chef goes sour, and her best waitress gets badly hurt. And just like that, Katie’s life goes from pretty good to not so much. What she needs is a second chance. Everybody deserves one, after all—but they don’t come easy. Luckily for Katie, a mysterious girl appears in the middle of the night with simple instructions for a do-it-yourself do-over:
1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4. Wake anew
And just like that, all the bad stuff never happened, and Katie is given another chance to get things right. She’s also got a dresser drawer full of magical mushrooms—and an irresistible urge to make her life not just good, but perfect. Too bad it’s against the rules. But Katie doesn’t care about the rules—and she’s about to discover the unintended consequences of the best intentions.
I’m a huge fan of the Scott Pilgrim novels – I’m dying to get myself that lovely boxed set, but my wallet sobs at the thought – so when I saw the author had written a new novel, I hopped on it. Admittedly, I’m late to the party – it came out way back in 2014 – but I only just saw it in a french book store, so come on, I’m just happy to read it.
Just like with Scott pilgrim, there’s something special about this graphic novel. First of all, the artwork is both fun, and fantastic: the style is really unique. It goes from being down to earth to really whimsical, to really dark. It’s something I’d like to be able to do with art. I’ll even say this whole book is a work of art in its own right.
It’s good fantasy: the story starts with something seemingly lighthearted – you get to fix your life by redos, who doesn’t want that? – before they go out of control, and the story tips into the really, really dark. And I mean scary.
But I’m a sucker for a good alternate timeline story. The more Katie’s redos extend back in time, the more changes sink into the present – until everything starts to unravel. It’s clever, and done in a way I’ve never seen before in a story like this. From small to very major changes, everything is different.
The story follows this kind of tale-like quality I haven’t seen in ages. A kind of moralizing, growth driven story with magic. Katie turns out to be really selfish, and her selfishness starts to derail the universe. There’s a good lesson for all of us at the end of the story, and it’s not delivered in any kind of preachy way. In a way, it’s a bit of a modern fairy tale.
I fully recommend this to people who want a warm welcome to graphic novels (this book will get you hooked), who want standalone stories and relatable fantasy. I think fans of Neil Gaiman will like this story in particular; and people who liked the Scott Pilgrim vs the World movie will definitely have a lot to love. If you’re all of the above, then this book needs to be in your hands right now.