The Dumbest Idea Ever

Common Sense Media says

Funny, affecting memoir of growing up crazy for comics.





What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable

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
Not applicable

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Jimmy Gownley
Illustrator:Jimmy Gownley
Topics:Sports and martial arts, Arts and dance, Friendship, Great boy role models, High school
Book type:Non-Fiction
Publication date:February 25, 2014
Number of pages:240
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 12
Available on:Hardback, Kindle, Nook, Paperback

This review of The Dumbest Idea Ever was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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