written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Seconds: Bryan Lee O'Malley's follow up to the widely popular Scott Pilgrim series feels extremely familiar (as per O'Malley's style) while taking its lead character down a road of self reflection, rife with the lead's eccentrics being the driving force for it.
Meet Katie, contrary to Scott Pilgrim, she's less of the doe eyed slacker and more like a doe eyed success story. An accomplished chef and a successful restauranteur, the book opens telling the story of Katie opening a restaurant, Seconds (as in the title), with aspirations to open a second restaurant that falls more in line with the "vision" she wants for a place she'll hang her chef hat. One fateful night, Katie wakes up in an unfamiliar room not like her own with an unfamiliar girl with white hair, red eyes, and a furry black coat standing atop her dresser. The mysterious girl says to Katie, "if things go wrong... don't forget" before disappearing into the top drawer of Katie's dresser. Chalking it up to a silly dream, Katie thinks nothing of it... that is until she has the opportunity to fix any mistake she makes.
Somehow the last message from the mysterious girl stuck with Katie, she checks the top drawer of her dresser and finds a small box... inside the box is a little notebook, a mysterious red-capped mushroom, and an immaculately printed instruction card that said:
A SECOND CHANCE AWAITS
1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4. Wake anew
Not thinking anything of it, Katie follows the directions and opens up a world of do-overs. Of course though, like a potato chip... you can't have just one. As Katie begins to rely more on her magical do-over mushrooms, she upsets the mysterious girl with the white hair and is forced to come face to face with the effects her changes make.
While O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series saw its slacker-hero face first world problems with a distinct video game inspired setting, the problems Katie faces in Seconds stem more from within herself than anything else. The setting still retains that distinct style of humor that made Scott Pilgrim such a beloved series, but the themes are quite a bit more serious than those in Scott Pilgrim. Katie deals with loss, money problems, self-esteem issues, and of course the ever present "growing up" thing.
I couldn't put it down and read the entire book in one sitting. While the humor was very familiar and much of what I loved about Scott Pilgrim was clearly present, Katie felt more real than Scott to me. I know I seem to be comparing SP to Seconds a lot in this review, but that's because I was such a fan of the Scott Pilgrim series and the book AND movie both have a very special place in my nerdy little heart. I loved how relatable the characters in Seconds were, these were young twenty-somethings facing very real problems. While the inclusion of a more mystic element to the story does uproot it a bit from reality, it never feels to overpower the story. It's a driving force but at it's core, Seconds is a sweet, funny, and incredibly sincere story about a girl trying to find her place in the world all the while learning to "let it be."
by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Cover Price: $24.99 (hardcover)