May 14, 2013 by Heidi
Title: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong [Goodreads]
Author: Prudence Shen [Website|Twitter]
Artist: Faith Erin Hicks [Website|Twitter]
Standing: Stand alone
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Contemporary
Published: May 7th, 2013 by First Second
Format: Paperback; 288 pages.
Source: Finished copy for review from publisher.
You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely—until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders. At stake is funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms—but not both.
It’s only going to get worse: after both parties are stripped of their funding on grounds of abominable misbehavior, Nate enrolls the club’s robot in a battlebot competition in a desperate bid for prize money. Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not. Running away from home on Thanksgiving to illicitly enter a televised robot death match? Of course!
In Faith Erin Hicks’ and Prudence Shen’s world of high school class warfare and robot death matches, Nothing can possibly go wrong.
If you want to get me to read “fluffy” contemporary and enjoy it, give it to me in a graphic novel. Because let me tell you folks, Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks have managed to take a good old TV trope, wrap it up in graphic novel format, and have it be the most fun I’ve had reading in some time. It has school rivalries, unexpected friendships, some very real teen-parent struggles, and gnomes:
Okay, so I’ll admit Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is kind of ideal for us geek girls, but it’s also pretty great for those of us who managed to straddle the line between geekdom and jocks in high school (hey, I went to a small school, you could be on the swim team and in the marching band at the same time). Our story focuses on Charlie, opening on a lovely scene where the poor schmuck gets dumped by his cheerleader girlfriend, Holly, via text message. He may be captain of the basketball team, but that doesn’t keep him from being wedged between a rock and a hard place when his neighbor/friend Nate decides to go to war with the cheerleaders to secure funding for his Robotics Club. And that Holly? Well, she’s slightly terrifying:
Obviously Faith Erin Hicks’ art goes hand in hand with Prudence Shen’s narration to tell this excellent tale, the above panels being some of my favorite as they show how marvelously Faith Erin Hicks can wrap her pen around a feeling and convey it without words. Top that off with tons of great background posters/t-shirts, and some fantastic vocalized references on Prudence Shen’s part, and you have a really clever and fun scene set for readers to enjoy.
There is just so much character in these pages that is able to make a well-worn plot seem fresh and inviting. But it isn’t just the parts we know that rock, it’s the parts we don’t expect. Charlie and Nate aren’t the type of boys who would normally be friends. They’re not into the same things at all. Thing is, they grew up next door to one another, and while they may not hang at school, they’re certainly friends outside of those doors. I loved that Prudence Shen was able to convey this relationship so well, because these friendships do exist in the real world. Charlie is also dealing with an absentee father and a mother who is moving on in her new life, bringing a real ‘more than just high school drama’ layer to Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong.
It’s a graphic novel that took me all of an hour flat to read, but I had a smile on my face a good 90% of that time. Faith Erin Hicks’ black and grey art was phenomenal, doing further work to prove to me that working without color doesn’t suck the life out of an image (I was very anti-non-color graphic novels for years until I found First Second). The art really brings to life Prudence Shen’s characters, and clearly these two have worked out an excellent balance. Prudence Shen’s story may be predictable and follow known tropes of high school politics and competition, but throw in some good robots, quite potentially evil twins, a cute and smart geek girl, and some surprising twists, and you have yourself a fun high school story that teens will love.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Well obvs I need to read Friends With Boys stat, and more titles by First Second in general. This was only my second, but I feel it’ll be second of many!
Recommended for: Fans of Anya’s Ghost, TV tropes, robots, and geek girls.
Get a second opinion:
The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh – ” it will be a hit with both nerds and reluctant readers”
Good Books and Good Wine – “I thought it really could have gone done a cliche route, but didn’t.”
Stacked – “The balance of story and paneling is done well: there’s enough to pick up in both when they stand alone or when they’re paired.”