So, yesterday I started and finished reading Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley. First off I highly recommend it if you have not read it because it is so good. I love Katie as a character and think that they use a very creative premise to essentially show what it means to grow up.
The basic idea is basically that Katie discovers a way to have a do-over on moments in her life. She keeps getting second chances on what happened, but as she moves further back through her life things begin to get a little strange. One of the big ideas presented in this is trying to make your life perfect, but what does that really mean or even look like? Also, if you could create a perfect life would you even recognize who you are in that new world if the moments that define who you are had not happened? (Spoilers for Seconds after the jump.)
Towards the end of the book it is revealed that Katie is not really changing what happened. More accurately her consciousness is jumping into alternate realities where the moment ended up different. In one reality something that Katie does ends up getting another girl hurt and in another reality that event does not occur. Because Katie just wakes up in the new reality she does not know for sure what actually happened the day before, which causes a lot of confusion.
As she changes more and more moments she begins to lose track of what happened when and to whom. She in the beginning does not realize she is jumping between realities she just thinks she is fixing the moments in the past that lead up to her present. At the same time changing the past is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Who Am I
As Katie keeps changing moments trying to find that perfect life that she is looking for she is also changing who she would be in that world. She starts to not recognize who she is in these new realities that she is living in.
A great example is that she goes back to not break up with an ex-boyfriend and when she wakes up it is not only that they are living together, but they are married. When they go around and talk to people about business everyone talks to him instead of her and suddenly her dream of opening a restaurant is not hers, but theirs. The decor of the restaurant is also not something she really likes, but the story seems to sense that the Katie in this reality is not as outspoken. The problem is that Katie does not understand the new-reality Katie and so does not know how to act. She is loud and outspoken and does not understand a world where she would have allowed all of these little decisions to just slip by. It goes to the heart of the fact that those moments in our lives help to shape and define not only the world around us, but our very essence. Without those moments who do we become?
When I Becomes We
The other piece that I greatly appreciated about the story that Seconds tells is that it touches on the idea of a “we.” When Katie wakes up and is suddenly married to Max she did not go through the relationship struggle so she does not know how to exist as a “we.” She still feels like a single independent being that has no ties to anyone.
Now I understand that this might be only my opinion, but I think the story shows that someone does not just become a “we” overnight. There is a process that a relationship goes through to get to that point and it can be a struggle when one side does not see things as a single unit as opposed to separate beings existing in the same space. So often we are told about “love at first sight” and “they lived happily ever after,” but never talk about the fact that it takes work to get to that point. Katie skips all the work, but wants the happily ever after and it just does not work like that.
A lot of the themes present in Seconds are fairly mature, but in particular it deals with growing up. Growing up is not about age, a job, ownership, but about how we deal with things when they go wrong or our life turns out differently than we expect. Katie just wants there to be a magic fix to correct what she views as mistakes. Yet, all those moments are what brought her to the present that she lives in. There is no such thing as a perfect life, just what we make of it.
David talked about Seconds today on Sourcerer as well, if you’d like somewhere else to weigh in!