Review: The Altered History of Willow Sparks – Tara O’Connor
by Tara O'Connor
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Genres: Graphic Novel, Young Adult
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
A nerdy teenage girl discovers a magical book that gives her the power to re-write her life, but magic always comes with a cost.
What happens when you can finally get everything you ever wanted?
Willow Sparks and her best friend Georgia Pratt are at the bottom of the social ladder at Twin Pines High School, just trying to get through each day relatively unscathed. But when Willow finds a mysterious book that allows her to literally change her life, it feels like her luck is finally turning. As she becomes more and more popular with each entry into the book, her old life, including her friendship with Georgia, seems miles away. Yet as Willow will discover, every action has a reaction, and the future has unusual—even dangerous—ways of protecting itself.
Willow, who everyone calls Willy, is your average high school nerd girl. She’s picked on by the popular kids (including a dodgeball incident that I cannot believe anyone could get away with in today’s schools), has a part-time job at the library, and generally wishes things were easier. After an incident at the town library, she discovers a whole hidden library full of books with the town’s residents’ names on them. Opening her own, she discovers that whatever she writes in the book comes true. Willy starts with little things, like wishing away her acne, and then, drunk with possibilities, adds a bit more each day. While other people at school notice something different about her, it’s her best friend, Georgia, that finally confronts her about it, and reminds her that there’s likely to be consequences.
If anything, it felt particularly short. I had a hard time getting emotionally involved with the characters because all we really got to see of Willy, really, before she finds the book was her being bullied. I also would’ve preferred something longer that explored the gradual ramifications of each change she made, rather than, day 1: she wishes away pimples, day 2: nicer clothes, etc. Some of the changes – like the loss of her friendship with Georgia and being accepted into the “popular kids” clique – were explored, but it felt like it was just on the surface. At the end of the book, it feels like things have returned to “normal,” but I would’ve liked to have seen her square off with the popular kids now that her changes have been removed. Otherwise, it feels like she didn’t really learn anything from the experience.
The art, itself, fits the story well. The characters are expressive, and the dialogue is concise, so the panels are uncrowded enough to let the art stand on its own. There’s also a really interesting behind-the-scenes section at the back of the book, including parts detailing the evolution of the art over the course of several years.
Overall, while I enjoyed this, it definitely left me wanting more from the story. Besides that, it’s still pretty solid, and I’m sure the teens it’s intended for will enjoy it!