Sunday, May 5, 2013
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong
A fresh take on the eternal struggle that is brains versus jocks, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is as enjoyable and engaging as it is beautifully and playfully drawn. The central issue here is that there is only enough student group funding to pay for one of these things: new costumes for the cheerleading squad or covering the robotics team at a national competition. Things get ugly when the cheerleaders make Charlie, the likeable, laid back captain of the basketball team, the frontperson in the upcoming student class elections. Also running in this mud-flinging campaign is Nate, the captain of the robotics team, Charlie's next door neighbor, and probably best friend. Neither Nate nor the cheerleaders hold back in going after what they want and the result is one ugly election.
Charlie gets caught in the middle of their squabbles, which we learn is nothing new in his life. He also has issues with his divorced parents and has not spoken to his mother in about a year. Although a lot of what I have described sounds vaguely cliched, in execution this book does not really feel like a retread because of how well the characters, their motivations, and their actions are fleshed out. I do not want to spoil anything, but both sides end up having to collaborate with the other more than they would like, and what begins as an "us versus them" plot shifts. Also, the take on gender and personal dynamics is interesting and nuanced, and overall all of these factors contribute to a comfortingly familiar but still fresh and fun feeling.
The collaborators that pulled up this book are Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks. Shen is an author, and this is her first book. Hicks is graphic novelist, webcomics creator, and animator whose growing list of impressive works includes The War at Ellsmere, Brain Camp, The Adventures of Superhero Girl, and Friends With Boys (one of my favorite books from last year). There are a number of comedic and dramatic scenes in the book, and Hicks does an excellent job of depicting them as well as imbuing a lot of personality into the characters. Both creators speak more about their work on this book in this interview.
Reviews I have seen of this book praise it for its story, characters, and art. Jonathan H. Liu at GeekDad commented on the story that it "works really well as a comic book" and on the art that "Hicks does a great job of portraying the characters and is able to communicate a lot with facial expressions." The reviewer at Guys Lit Wire wrote that the book struck "a great balance between the humor and pain of being in high school." JD DeLuzio called this book " a standout North American graphic novel that eschews capes, tights, and magic."
A preview and much more are available at the book's official website. It was published by First Second.
A huge thank you to Gina, a wonderful person who sends me review copies of great books such as this one.