In this graphic novel, Charlie is along for the ride in more ways than one. The first page finds him hanging on for dear life as his friend Nate weaves in and out of traffic while driving home from school, but Charlie only meekly expresses his fear. He also doesn't have any kind of comeback when his cheerleader girlfriend, Holly, breaks up with him via text message in the book's first frame. This kind of non-response is pretty much what we can expect from Charlie for most of book. He is NOT the kind of guy that stands up for himself--he pretty much lets everyone in his life walk all over him.... which is how he ends up letting the cheerleaders manipulate him into running for student body president.
Nate, on the other hand, actually WANTS to be student body president--but only to ensure that the Robotics Team gets the funding to finish building The Beast. But when Nate and the cheerleaders take their rivalry a bit too far, the principal pulls funding for both of their clubs... which leads to an uneasy (and unlikely) partnership between the two groups, as they team up to find an alternate source of funding. The plan? To turn The Beast into a robot-killing machine in time to win the Robot Rumble and secure the $10,000 of prize money.
This graphic novel was a quick read; I knocked it out in a little over an hour. It leaned heavily on high school stereotypes (cheerleaders vs. nerds), but Charlie was a refreshing departure from the norm. He and Nate were thrown together by their parents as kids because of their proximity as neighbors, but as high school students, Nate was the one kid that actually cared about and understood Charlie as a person instead of consigning him to the "jock" stereotype. Nate was there for Charlie when no one else was and even took care of him when his parents weren't around. Their friendship was a very cool thing, and I think it was Nate's loyalty to Charlie that finally enabled Charlie to stand up for himself. This story was both fun and funny, and there's a nice little lesson about friendship in there to boot. Thumbs up.