The Altered History of Willow Sparks TP
Publisher: Oni Press
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Price: $19.99
Creator: Tara O'Connor
Format: 152 pgs., B&W, Trade paperback
ISBN: 978-1-6201-0450-7
Age Rating: 12 and Up
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

The Altered History of Willow Sparks is a cautionary tale about tinkering with fate, and the theme is a familiar one: Be true to yourself, don’t imitate the alpha crowd, and if you forget that your nerdy friends are your true friends, you will be forcibly reminded in the near future.

Willow Sparks is a high school girl who is plagued by the usual problems—acne, clueless teachers—and a less common problem, a trio of bullies who amuse themselves by shoving her around.  When they push her down a flight of stairs at the library where she works, she crashes through a wall into a hidden cache of books, each of which contains the life story of one person.  Her own book comes with a special pen, that, Willow realizes, she can use to write her own life story.  Making her skin clear up is pretty harmless, but after she writes in some bigger changes, she ends up hanging out with the bullies—and even doing a little bullying herself.  When things start spinning out of control, she returns to the library, where the librarian, a ponytailed older man, talks to her about the danger of toying with fate and the consequences it can have.  She puts back the book, her zits come back, and while we never hear what happened to the bullies, she does start to get the rest of her life in order.

The book is black and white, drawn in a breezy, manga-influenced style that brings to mind Faith Erin Hicks’s high school books, Friends with Boys and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong.  With relatable characters, a straightforward story, and a setting that feels more like a middle-schooler’s concept of high school than the real thing, The Altered History of Willow Sparks is a good pick for tween and young teen readers looking for a slice-of-life drama with a supernatural twist, as well as for fans of Hicks, Raina Telgemeier and Svetlana Chmakova who are looking for more stories in the same vein.

--Brigid Alverson