Book Title: Seconds
Author: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Style: Graphic Novel
Target Audience: Adult
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Page Count: 336
Format: Hardcover (Library)
Reading time: 2 hours
Date Finished: 2/16/17
Click here to find it on Amazon (New window)
My impressions: I’m really impressed by Seconds, a graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the creator of the popular Scott Pilgrim series. Seconds tells a surprisingly deep story despite its seeming simplicity, and the characters (particularly the protagonist, Katie) are three-dimensional and allowed to be flawed without much required resolution. (Even the blissful good girl Hazel winds up with disfigured arms due to the story’s events, but not because the author is being malicious; the story requires this event to transpire because it becomes the inciting incident for what ultimately happens.)
The idea of the story revolves around house spirits brought over from the old world. Katie is a chef at a restaurant called Seconds in an old house that is haunted by one spirit, Lis, whom only Katie can see. Early in the story, a server named Hazel badly burns her arms in a kitchen accident, and Katie, stewing in her guilt, discovers that she can use a special power Lis will grant her to go back in time and change the event. Unfortunately, Katie realizes she can abuse this power to live a life filled with takebacks and tweaks, and she soon finds herself unraveling her own reality when she accidentally invites a second house spirit to play the game with her.
The art style seems at odds with the more serious magical realism elements of the story. Many of the characters are small and cutesy, with big eyes and tiny bodies, almost as if this were intended for a young audience. And yet it’s really geared at a more mature readership. There are sex scenes, there’s cheating on loved ones, and there are discussions about grown-up things like being disappointed with how your life has turned out and tricking others into loving you. Katie is perpetually jealous of the people who are younger and prettier than her, often ignoring the fact that her talent as a chef is what draws them around her. She doesn’t befriend people so much as use them, and when she’s offered the chance to change her life for the better, she does it without much regard for the impact it will have on others.
The plotting of the story is also very interesting. As Katie changes her history, the details change in each new reality created, and O’Malley took advantage of this setup to include a number of background details and interesting relationships to track as the story goes on.
I’ve read that O’Malley spent years developing this book, and it shows. It’s too bad that so much effort can be read in such a short period of time (a problem for any creative person, to be sure!), but this one’s definitely worth a re-read. I found it more engaging that the supremely silly (but fun) Scott Pilgrim series and I now recall I’ve also been wanting to read O’Malley’s Lost at Sea sometime. Perhaps I’ll get to it soon just to see how it compares!