Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

SHEN, Prudence & . illus. by Faith Erin Hicks. 280p. First Second. 2013. pap. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-659-6.
RedReviewStarGr 6–9—The next student-body president will decide if the school will fund cheerleader uniforms or a robotics competition, and the cheerleaders are forcing the basketball captain to run against his friend Nate, the robotics club president. The line between jocks and nerds begins to waver, however, when the two warring factions enter a robot rumble for the prize money. The robot death matches are suspenseful and, like much of this novel, effectively illustrated with cinematic paneling and few words. Hicks's angular illustrations nod to manga and are wonderfully expressive: the haughty cheerleaders are truly chilling. Tweens, teens, and all robot fans should enjoy this good-humored play on the ongoing battle between jocks and geeks.—Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library, NY
While this graphic novel involves conflicts among various high school cliques, it ultimately demonstrates each character’s individual talents, obsessions, and failings. Readers will enjoy following this motley crew as they coalesce into a close group when they need to work together. The relationship between Charles and Nate, childhood friends whose current rivalry is central to the story, is handled well, showing both their affection for and frustration with each other. Faith Erin Hicks’s illustrations make use of perspective, shadows, and lettering to heighten the drama of the fast-moving plot. In a story line that includes a nail-biter of a basketball game, a wild party, a student election, and a Thanksgiving Day runaway plan, it’s a robot competition that provides the greatest thrill. With a cheerleader’s help, Joanna, a member of the robotics club, leads her team to victory.

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