- Posted by Johanna on April 14, 2013 at 9:57 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: adapted and art by Faith Erin Hicks; story by Prudence Shen
- PUBLISHER: First Second; $16.99 US
I sure hope Faith Erin Hicks doesn’t get typecast as only being able to handle teenagers in school because she does such an excellent job with these kinds of stories. I love reading her young people (in such books as The War at Ellsmere and Friends With Boys), but then again, I’d read any work she does regardless of the age of the characters.
In Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, Hicks adapted a story by Prudence Shen (she’s posted online how she went about the process) that captures the changing alliances during a political showdown in high school. Charlie is almost accidentally popular (or as someone calls him, “the worst cool kid ever”). He’s the captain of the basketball team and until recently, was dating the head cheerleader. She’s just dumped him, but his geeky buddy Nate isn’t much help consoling him.
Nate’s got a plan, you see. There’s enough money in the school budget for either his robot-building club to go to a major competition, or for the cheerleaders to get new uniforms. So Nate’s going to run for student body president to tilt the decision in his group’s favor. The cheerleaders don’t like that, so they select Charlie as their candidate, and the resulting election quickly gets ugly.
There’s a lot more to this story than just the mean girls vs. the nerds, although their escalating pranks are quite entertaining and very well-cartooned. (That part of the premise is resolved halfway through the book, at which point there is a surprising twist and all-new challenges to tackle.) Charlie is more of a prize than a personality at first, until it becomes clear that his lack of ambition and action is a key survival strategy. It makes his later choices, once he starts making them, all the more surprising and affecting.
Hicks’ figures are impressively expressive, making this a smooth read and beautifully capturing all the mercurial emotions of adolescence. Even the cast members with smaller roles are distinctive personalities. The robotics club, for example, is made up of the sensible Ben, the skilled and caring Joanna (obviously my favorite), and the creepy truth-telling twins.
Hicks’ pacing is accomplished, particularly in the silent reaction sequences, which demonstrate her artistic confidence. They’re balanced by her use of comic language conventions, such as giant puppy-dog eyes to show a character pretending exaggerated sympathy or the quasi-robotic moves of the cheerleading squad. I also appreciate the way she marks scene changes with establishing panels of the new setting.
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong will be released early next month. In the meantime, you can read it online. You can also enter a contest if you’ve preordered the book. (The publisher provided a review copy.)