Review: ‘Seconds’ by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgrim fans rejoice as I read a graphic novel* made by the famous cartoonist named Bryan Lee O’Malley. I personally never read his ‘Scott Pilgrim’ series, but after reading one of his newest graphic novels recently, I’m a little curious. The one I’m reading today is a timeless yet modern supernatural graphic read simply known as ‘Seconds’ by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Katie is the owner of a popular restaurant in town named Seconds, and dreams of owning another restaurant after spending four years of her life renting the place. She tries to renovate a run-down spot named Lucknow, but has trouble coming up with the money after so many things start to get in her way, like her boyfriend breaking up with her, contractors paying too much, and realizing both Lucknow and Seconds have house spirits that guard their homes.

After a new waitress at Seconds named Hazel gets badly burned, a guilt-ridden Katie suddenly find a mysterious girl in her room with a mushroom in her hands along with a notebook. The girl reveals herself to be the house spirit of Seconds named Lis, and tells Katie to eat the mushroom, write down a mistake, and wake up to the mistake being erased. She write down that Hazel never got burned, and to her shock, Katie wakes up the next day to see Hazel’s burns gone.

Suddenly, after finding more of the mushrooms under the restaurant’s floorboards, Katie begins eagerly making massive changes to her life, despite Lis’s warning not to tamper too much with her life. Of course Katie ignores her, and soon finds her life and her world spiraling out of control. With the help of the waitress Hazel (who tells Katie of house spirits in the first place) and Lis, it’s up to Katie to make things right.

Main characters are an important piece of writing, and Katie here is probably the highlight of ‘Seconds’. She has everything a memorable character should have. She’s optimistic, sarcastic, a goofball, quirky as a twenty-something woman, and selfish, but never to the point of being an anti-hero. She’s shown to have a good heart, be very determined to construct her new restaurant, and knows when she’s made a mistake that needs to be fixed, even if it may not need to be fixed. In fact, Katie often reminds me of an older version of the protagonist in ‘Coraline’ by Neil Gaiman.

The drawing in this is nothing short of spectacular. The artist’s favorite color in this is obviously red, but the angles and coloring in this gives way to wonderful designs and characters with personalities. The style even allows for good comedic edge without making the characters look like something out of the funnies in a newspaper. A good example would be with the waitress Hazel, who’s considered to be the most beautiful in the restaurant, yet is unbelievably shy and awkward to the point where her reactions always made me grin. Even the design given to Lis is pretty neat, as she comes off as creepy and intriguing at the same time.

It is amazing how much detail and imagination is in ‘Seconds’. Not just the restaurant, but also the book feels like an otherworldly modern place. The climax alone rarely uses words from the narrator, and constructs a visual medium for what the lesson is: we cannot fix everything that is broken, and the past is in the past.

Are there flaws? A few. But they’re more humor-wise where a couple of jokes felt inconsistent or unnecessary. For example, I found it weird how the narrator of ‘Seconds’ sometimes broke the fourth wall with Katie, yet she ignores him/her throughout most of the time until the end. It’s still funny with her reactions, but feels like something from another book.

Also, I’m gonna sound unfair, but I didn’t think Katie’s ex seemed interesting.

Back in the 20th century, graphic novels weren’t considered a form of art yet because of them being seen as childish and innocent. Then came works such as ‘Maus’, ‘Nordguard: Across Thin Ice’, ‘Blacksad’, and even ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’. And much like ‘Seconds’, they came with clever writing, a solid sense of humor, wonderful artwork, good storytelling, and likeable characters. And while ‘Seconds’ has a few basic flaws, and I never read O’Malley’s ‘Scott Pilgrim’ series, I may thanks to the second thoughts ‘Seconds’ gave me.

*To answer your question, yes I will review graphic novels for Reader’s Boulevard, as long as it meets the criteria of being more than 150 pages in length.

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

Review: ‘Afterworlds’ by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld is a genius. Once in a while I come across a novel that cleverly blends two narratives in a unique way; however, Afterworlds has taken this to a whole new level.

Our first character is Darcy Patel, a teenage girl who is excited and terrified that her first novel, coincidentally named Afterworlds, is going to be published. She quits college, and while experiencing apprehension about having her book edited and published, begins dating another writer new to the scene. I won’t tell you who, because, honestly, you won’t expect it.

Then we have our second main character, who is another teenage girl simply named Lizzie. After a near-death experience during a terrorist attack, she realizes she is what others call a “psychopomp” – a spirit guide who also acts as a grim reaper for ghosts. Enter Yamaraj, a Hindu boy who protects souls from rogue reapers and evil spirits.

What do these two narratives have in common? Lizzie is the main character of Darcy’s soon-to-be published novel.

Afterworlds is one young adult novel that all writers should read. It vividly shows the stress and fear involved in the complicated process of having a book or story published.

I also enjoyed the narrative structure. It’s like watching Suzanne Collins as she writes the first Hunger Games book, but both narratives are entertaining enough to keep you interested.

The chemistry between Yamaraj and Lizzie seems somewhat flat, mainly because they don’t see each other very much. However, you can make a constructive argument that Westerfeld wrote it that way to show how much Darcy can improve.

Either way, I never got bored. If Afterworlds sounds intriguing to you, check it out and feel what it’s like to step into the shoes of an author.

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On a side note: I had this review published in the nationwide magazine Teen Ink, which is copyrighted under my alias DomusVocis. Here’s a link to it: http://www.teenink.com/reviews/book_reviews/article/745913/Afterworlds-by-Scott-Westerfeld/

If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!