Book Review: “Seconds” by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic “Seconds” is about Katie, an ambitious renowned chef, and her everyday life as she struggles to open a second restaurant. When Katie finds out that eating a special kind of mushroom allows her to rewrite her past, she quickly becomes addicted to it, altering her life and hurting the people she cares about. With a lacking sense of responsibility, Katie neglects her house spirit, Lis, which ultimately leads to a supernatural battle between good and evil. Throughout these circumstances and as Katie constantly changes her past, the story explores how one needs to behave to truly be happy. More specifically, this text implies that people with a strong sense of identity are compelled to set their priorities straight, thus engaging in activities that make them happy. This is shown through Katie’s wrongdoings in the past and by how her present behaviour allows her to achieve what she wants.
Firstly, Katie is characterized as uncertain of which part of her life to prioritize, which is shown to keep her from being happy. When Max subtly asks Katie to be part of her new restaurant, Katie, in a minute of panic, compromises her dream, which was to have her own new restaurant (O’Malley 146). Although her new project is very significant to her, she neglects it in a desperate attempt to maintain her relationship with Max because she has trouble deciding which one of these two to prioritize. This is shown by how Katie hesitates when she answers Max. After having changed her past quite a few times, Katie unexpectedly discovers that she has recently gotten married to Max. Although Katie has longed for a serious relationship with Max, when faced with the possibility of hooking up with Andrew, she quickly gives in and cheats on Max, saying she is “just gonna go with it” (O’Malley 165). This shows how uncertain Katie is when it comes to what she wants, as this behaviour demonstrates that she does not know which desire to prioritize. She is quick to sabotage herself as she does not possess a strong sense of identity, hesitating when it comes to affirming what she wants in terms of her relationships. Later, Katie sees part of her dream of opening her second restaurant collapse as “She’d give up Lucknow. […] All for a guy” (O’Malley 198). Katie had let go of the building she has been dreaming of just to please Max, which shows just how out-of-touch she is with her wishes and how she repeatedly neglects her priorities, making her feel regretful as sweat drips down her face and her voice jolts with panic (O’Malley 198 panel 10). In short, Katie’s uncertainty in knowing what she wants hinders her to achieve her goals, thus impeding her happiness.
Secondly, Katie is later portrayed as knowing what she wants, and this behaviour is shown to bring her happiness as she sets her priorities straight and subsequently achieves her goals. After having witnessed first-hand the consequences of her actions by waking up in an apocalyptic world, Katie realizes that the most important thing for her right now is to go back home. She therefore willingly gives up her last mushroom and gives it to Lis, knowing that her house spirit will help her upon receiving a mushroom (O’Malley 305). Contrasting to her past behaviour, when she was eager for mushrooms, she now easily gives one away just to achieve her goal of returning to her world. Katie now knows what is best for her and is determined to do everything needed to return home, even drastically changing her behaviour. Upon meeting with Max after leaving the hospital, Katie finally admits that “I screwed up. I handled things poorly” (O’Malley 315). She can admit her wrongdoings because she is more in tune with herself and now knows for sure that she wants a healthy relationship with Max. The way she candidly talks with Max shows that she now prioritizes their relationship and therefore puts the effort into it. Lastly, after returning from the apocalyptic world and having set her priorities straight, “Katie’s restaurant opened, weeks late, way over budget, but it did well, and she was happy there” (O’Malley 319). Katie finally acknowledges her utmost desire to purchase the Lucknow building and commits to it. She prioritizes her own ambitions and disregards her past need to please others, therefore choosing the restaurant she has always loved, which contributes to her happiness. Simply put, Katie recognizes what she wants, leading her to focus primarily on those goals, therefore making herself feel content.
In conclusion, Bryan Lee O'Malley “Seconds” shows that to be happy, one must know precisely what they want and stay focused on their priorities. While Katie’s past behaviour hinders her from assessing what holds the most importance in her life, her most recent behaviour enables her to be introspective and leads her to take valuable steps towards fulfilling her priorities. Though Bryan Lee O’Malley used a grown-up as the main character of his story, the comic is still very meaningful to younger people. Teenagers are often faced with dilemmas, but the most important one remains the struggle of finding a good balance between an academic life and a social life. One must be able to set their priorities straight to avoid neglecting one of these spheres of their life.