Book Review #18: Seconds: A Graphic Novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Saturday, 10 January 2015
Product details:
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Format: Hardback
Length: 321 pages
Published: 2014
Source: Purchased with a Christmas gift card.
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 mistake2. Ingest one mushroom3. Go to sleep4. 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 just going to start off this review by throwing it out there that never before have I read any works by Bryan Lee O'Malley even though I have heard great things about the Scott Pilgrim series. Therefore this review will be unbiased and I will be basing all opinions solely on this graphic novel.

So what did I think?
  • Cover - The cover although plain and simple in design is in my opinion actually quite bold. Simply just the title, the author and a picture of our main protagonist Katie. Already you can recognise the famous Scott Pilgrim like style that Bryan Lee O'Malley is famous for. However it must be said that if you have the hardcover version of the book that the beauty of the cover lies simply underneath the dust jacket. I don't have a picture of my own because I couldn't take one that was good enough (I'm a bit of a perfectionist!) so I will link one I found online here. (All credit goes to the photographer of course.)
  • Plot -  Moving onto the plot. What did I think about it? Well first of all the idea of 'resetting' your day or 'erasing' moments that have happened isn't an idea that is new to me, but from reviews I'd seen online of this book it promised so much more than just that, and boy was I surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel and what really impressed me was the length of it. You get 321 pages of stunning artwork and fantastic storyline. Although it only took me one sitting to get through it, I was so glad at it's length because the storyline had enough time to be fleshed out in my opinion. Even though I've given you a brief synopsis, what is this story actually about? Well it's about a chef called Katie who runs a very successful restaurant called Seconds, but she longs for work to be finished in her new restaurant - one she hopes will be ready soon! Everything changes however when she starts seeing a house spirit and she provides her with magic mushrooms that can erase a mistake, at a price. Every time she uses a mushroom she loses more than she's originally asked for, and the mistakes begin to build up until life for Katie begins to look more tragic than she started with. 
  • Illustrations - What drew me to this graphic novel in the first place was originally not the plot, but the beautiful full colour illustrations that run throughout! All in O'Malley's classic style, each illustration really brings out the depth of each character, even in the positioning of their bodies in the frames. Perfect. I also really enjoyed that during the revision scenes, the colouring changed to a mixture of reds, yellows and oranges to differentiate it from the original storyline.
  • Characters - Characters in this graphic novel were very distinctive throughout. Even some of the more minor characters that were mentioned or seen once or twice throughout the novel had depth to them. Each had their own distinctive voice and personality that I found to be extremely relatable. However what really made this book was how fleshed out the main characters were, especially Hazel. Although the focus of the novel was all on Katie and her development, if you look closely throughout the novel you can see just how much Hazel changes, not necessarily in personality but in attitude to life - this can be seen by her outfit choices as the novel progresses. This could be interpreted as Katie's impact and effect on the people around her (which is probably true), but I feel that it definitely highlights how O'Malley develops each of his characters individually. 
So what did I think about the novel overall? Well to be fair I couldn't find that many faults with it, and if I did have any they didn't really seem big enough to validate as an actual reason. The only one that I can really think of was that at times I felt that there were scenes in the book that kind of flitted about a bit making the novel feel a tad unstructured. Like you would instantly flit from one scene in the restaurant (from what seemed in the middle of a scene) to being over the river in the second restaurant being built. To me it wasn't a huge issue which is why I was reluctant to mention it, but being a honest review I feel that I had to mention it because it did gripe on a me a bit, but not enough to detach from my overall feelings of this book. Besides that little gripe, for a graphic novel I give this a classification of 5 stars. Really it would be more a 4.5/4.75 but my gut is telling me to make it a 5, because in reality this is probably the best graphic novel I have read to date. That has to count for something right?

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