The Dumbest Idea Ever

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Dumbest Idea Ever Book Poster Image
Funny, affecting memoir of growing up crazy for comics.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Dumbest Idea Ever re-creates an important moment in the history of comics and graphic novels. Set between 1985 and 1990, the memoir ably conveys what it was like to be interested in comics at a time when few people took them seriously.

Positive Messages

The Dumbest Idea Ever promotes the notion that mastery of an art takes time, that artists need to be prepared for both accolades and disappointment. It also emphasizes that real life's sometimes good fodder for art.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jimmy Gownley portrays himself as an eager-to-please but undisciplined middle school student. In high school, he starts to lose his way, but his best friend Tony and his girlfriend Ellen keep him grounded. The adult characters -- even the nuns who teach at Jimmy's school -- are presented as caring and supportive.


Jimmy develops a crush on a classmate, Ellen Toole. They date for a while but eventually break up. They are shown holding hands, and it's suggested that they kiss.


The Dumbest Idea Ever contains veiled allusions to comic-book characters from 1985 to 1990.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Dumbest Idea Ever is a funny, affecting memoir in graphic novel form. Set between 1985 and 1990, it depicts an important time in comic book history, when people began taking comics seriously and an ambitious high school student could experiment with publishing his own illustrated stories. Jimmy Gownley depicts his friend, parents, teachers and his own younger self with respect and affection. There's no violence, objectionable language, or substance use, and there's just a suggestion that two dating teens kiss.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written August 29, 2015

Very Funny And Great For Kids!

I thought that this comic book is great for kids who love to laugh! I recommend this book to kids!

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

At the start of THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER, middle school student Jimmy Gownley thinks he has everything figured out. He gets good grades, plays on a successful basketball team, and wants to create his own comic books. But navigating adolescence isn't easy, and soon Jimmy is getting bad grades, falling ill, and questioning whether he has what it takes to be a cartoonist. Luckily, he has his best friend, Tony, and Ellen, a cute girl who seems interested in him, to boost his confidence while dispensing valuable advice.

Is it any good?

The Dumbest Idea Ever is a smart, funny, and affecting memoir in graphic novel form. Author and illustrator Jimmy Gownley does an excellent job of capturing the highs and lows of middle school and early high school, depicting his friends, parents, teachers, and himself with affection and respect. The book also shows that art isn't easy, not even comic book art. Just as he has lessons to learn about being a good student or a good friend, Jimmy has to re-evaluate his own talent. The Dumbest Idea Ever doesn't wallow in fake angst; it's refreshingly realistic in how it approaches its subject.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can discuss graphic novels and comics. Why are they so popular with readers of all ages?

  • What does it take to become an artist? How important is raw talent? How important is discipline?

  • Do you have trouble evaluating whether your work's good or not? What strategies can you use to get honest feedback?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels and history

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate