Review: Seconds

SECONDS - cover

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.

From the mind and pen behind the acclaimed Scott Pilgrim series comes a madcap new tale of existential angst, everyday obstacles, young love, and ancient spirits that’s sharp-witted and tenderhearted, whimsical and wise.

I loved Seconds. If all western graphic novels are like this, then I will definitely be reading more of them. I found Seconds in the Teen Fiction section of my library, which was a bit weird, considering it should be in the Teen Graphic Novel section instead, but the bright red spine caught my eye, and so I pulled it from the bookshelf. Instantly, the first thing you see is the name: Seconds and if you look closely, you’ll see: “A Graphic Novel”.

I read a lot of graphic novels, or more specifically, Japanese graphic novels, or manga. Some of you may be familiar with it. I haven’t really read any “Western-style” kind of graphic novels, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Would the art style be different? Probably. As some of you may know, Japanese manga is drawn in a very specific way, with huge eyes and sketchy or under-stressed noses, and the stories are continuous, with many books in a series. In fact, some, such as One Piece have more than 70 books! So it was interesting to read a graphic novel that was only one story, a single ride that could be captured in a solitary book. It was a real experience for me, going against everything that I was used to, and I have to say, it was really quite enjoyable.

The first thing that I noticed in Seconds is the art style. It was, actually, quite similar to the way a Japanese manga artist might draw. The characters were cartoonish, with large eyes and under emphasised noses. The faces were round, and huge in comparison to the body. This made them very cute, and kiddy-like [although some parts of the book were anything but kiddy-like]. I think that most readers out there will enjoy the art style, as it really seems like something that will appeal to everybody of all ages and kind. The colours were flat, and monotone with clearly defined areas for shading, the substitute for detailed shading was black outlines. For example, where a realistic artist would have used different shades for the creases of a shirt, Bryan Lee O’Malley has simply penned in some black lines. This, however, does not mean that the drawing is not detailed. In fact, it probably makes up for the lack of different shades with the detail in the drawings. One page spreads are common, and you can just see and feel the love and care that comes through the colours. Talking of the colours, a really nice palette has been used. Usually, not many people notice this kind of stuff, but the colours all agree really well, and it’s the small things like this that make a graphic novel.

Now onto the story itself. The book leaps straight into the thick of the plot, starting with a prologue that makes no sense at all, but gets you into the book (because you want to know what happens right?). Chapter 1 starts with the story itself and this is where it becomes interesting.

Seconds is like a pebble on in the grass. You don’t really take notice of it until it trips you up. Seconds starts happily, it has a bit of your attention, you’re just kind of reading it but not reading it. But then, somewhere along the way, the plot thickens and it has snagged you.

All throughout Seconds, there are scattered panels that will make you laugh. Like, snort-laugh. Because the art style fits this so well. If you have a hardcover, with the same cover as the picture above, Page 96 was my favourite page in the book, simply because of the expression on one of the character’s faces.

The book has a nostalgic feel all the way throughout, from the very first pages setting the scene of the restaurant. It’s a very homely feel and you feel as if you should curl up in front of the fire with a cup of hot chocolate. This already rates it up 2 apples, because I believe the general feel of the book is extremely important to how much you like the book.

The characters in Seconds are so so amazing. It is probably the best part of the book. They leap off the pages, and into the reader’s heart. They are so relatable, and the connection created is so strong, because they feel so real. Characters are one of the most important parts of the book [among theme, plot, setting and conflict], and the characters in Seconds have excelled my expectations. Another thing I like about the characters is that they are distinguishable from one another. I hate manga where everybody looks the same, because it’s just so hard to tell people apart. Seconds definitely triumphs in this aspect as well.

The plot itself is engrossing, but I have a bit of a complaint. It gets a bit confusing towards the end. I feel like Bryan Lee O’Malley has tried too hard to make his book deeper than it needs to be, and this has tarnished it a bit. The threads connecting the scarf have become too complicated and it becomes a little confusing. However, the plot is good all the way until 3/4 through, and then after about 10 pages after 3/4 is clears again, so thats good.

Apart from that, I have no complaint with Seconds. I think it is a great introduction to graphic novels if you haven’t read any of this genre before. Definitely recommended.

Rating:  9/10

Seconds is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.

The Info:

  • Title: Seconds: A Graphic Novel
  • Author: Bryan Lee O’Malley
  • Hardcover: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345529375
  • URL: Amazon Link

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