Review: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

18630542Title: Seconds

Author: Bryan Lee O’Malley

Publisher: Random House of Canada

Publication Date: July 2014

ISBN: 9780345529374

Seconds: A Graphic Novel

Synopsis from Goodreads:
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 so picky about my graphic novels, and I’ve never before had an interest in O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim books. A friends told me that I had to read Seconds. She told me it was a beautiful book both in story and in illustration. I was skeptical, but I shouldn’t have been. Seconds blew me away. O’Malley pulls together thoughtful, intentional artwork with a beautiful story to depict a struggle of mistakes. If you could change any mistake that you’ve made with a simple notebook and a mushroom, would you, no matter the consequences?

Katie, the protagonist, gets caught in a web and she is her own undoing. It’s starts with a small bit of guilt, an accident, and a desire to right a wrong. But the power of the mushrooms to change her reality soon gets out of hand. Katie’s greed and desire for perfection get in the way and things spiral out of control. She unknowingly invites in negative spirits and her situation worsens by the day. It’s a story that is both funny and dark. It’s full of the supernatural–forces beyond control–but also the human struggle to accept that which we cannot change. Katie is representative of humanity’s struggle for the easy and the better. Frustration and guilt are her greatest enemies and she loses herself in the power of change. Evil arises from Katie’s discontent with her situation–with every situation–and this evil is only tames when she learns to accept her situation and to let things happen in their own time.

The artwork is simply stunning. I was convinced that I’d struggle through this story and it’s art. But I picked it up and I was swept away. O’Malley uses subtle cues to convey the tone and situation through imagery. The colours reflect the somewhat eerie feeling of the book and the changes become more and more hazed as Katie slips further away from reality. O’Malley plays with perspective and depth to create interesting visuals and to highlight particularly important scenes or images.

I definitely recommend Seconds to you, friends, as a friend recommended it to me. For me, it was an excellent introduction to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s storytelling and artistic style. Perhaps I’ll have to give Scott Pilgrim a try!

 

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