Author, Artist: Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks
This graphic novel is straight up HILARIOUS.
Public high school. Limited activities funding. Science team wants to go to a robotics tournament. Cheerleaders want new uniforms. The budget will only fund one of them. Whichever side can get their candidate elected as Student Council president will control the budget.
Nothing could possibly go wrong.
On the ballot for the Science Club: Crazed club president Nate. He’s a neurotic schemer, a lunatic driver, and is wholly obsessed with taking down the cheerleaders at any cost.
On the ballot for the cheerleaders: Captain of the basketball team Charlie, who has no desire to get involved in the ensuing shenanigans. Caught between his friendship with Nate and fear of his ex-girlfriend’s “Pom-Pom Gestapo,” Charlie is voluntold for the rival candidacy.
The race goes from upstanding to mudslinging in a matter of days, with no holds barred on either side. When everyone (except poor Charlie) goes too far, they’re both denied funding regardless of the election outcome. The chance for redemption comes in the form of Robot Rumble, a Battle Bots-style competition (Anyone? Anyone? What a great show.) with enough potential prize money to fund both teams’ projects and give “The Beast” the killer upgrades it’ll need to compete. Perhaps chainsaws.
As a former member of the underfunded science team side, I found this book deliciously gratifying and utterly hilarious. I loved the art, which delivered a fabulous range of character emotions that fit every scene perfectly and legitimately made me laugh. The personalities depicted within walk a fine balance – they’re over-the-top without falling prey to stereotypes that would turn off fans of either team represented. Nate isn’t a quiet nerd in the corner; he explodes off every page. The cheerleaders aren’t brainless ditzes; they’re a tightly organized crew that exudes power and athleticism.
In fact, there’s a telling instance at Robot Rumble where another team questions why Charlie and the rest of the science team have allied with, well, jocks. These jerks are given every unfair stereotype, and rightfully so. They’re the antithesis to our unlikely heroes, who ultimately refuse to let labels get in the way of teamwork.
Charlie is the only character we really delve into, but it’s enough to nicely round out the emotional range of the story. While he’s largely a figurehead and spectator to the funding drama, the events of his personal life equip him with the emotional capability to be the glue that holds the tenuous alliance together. Charlie lives with his divorced father, who spends more time on work trips than at home. He’s been avoiding his mother’s calls, hurt by her move across the country and pressing insistence on kindling a relationship between Charlie and her new fiancé. His deteriorating home life is offset by his growing investment in Robot Rumble, with both storylines coming to a head as overlapping obligations force him to choose.
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a quick, fun read that anyone who went to public high school should definitely pick up! While the message of looking beyond labels is nothing new, it’s delivered in such an entertaining, highly dramatized fashion that the uncomplicated plot serves it well. I was pleased to see that this wasn’t a “Revenge of the Nerds” setup; it showcases the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and brings them together to achieve a common goal. Whether you’re a nerd, a cheerleader, or any of the thousands of possible groups in between, you’ll find something to love and laugh about in Nothing Can Possible Go Wrong.