Review: Not Your Sidekick – C.B. Lee

Not Your Sidekick.jpg
Book cover: Jess jumps from one pile of rocks to another. She is wearing a t-shirt with the slogan: “Master Mischief was right about the cheese”. Above her someone is flying.

Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

Not Your Sidekick kept cropping up in various posts on my WordPress Reader, on Twitter and on Goodreads and I finally decided to give it a go. I did not regret it one bit!

This book is #ownvoices for bisexual representation and Vietnamese-Chinese American representation.

The writing style is very unusual here, and I have to admit, that I was rather confused at the beginning. However, by the end of the book, I was convinced that this was the best way to writing the story. The story is told in present tense and through Jess’ perspective, however not in first-person but in third-person.

Excellent world-building here. I wasn’t sure how she was going to combine superheroes with a setting in the future, but C.B. Lee ended up constructing a world so cool that I really want to experience that world. I would love to be able to taste the meat-substitute dishes, especially the ones that are made in Bells’ parents’ restaurant. I’m always interested in stories that discuss the disadvantages of technology and how technology can be used as a tool by certain people, and I liked that we got a taste of this discussion in this book. It sounds like this might be a larger theme in the next book, hence one of the reasons why I’m quite excited about the release of book no. 2 Not Your Villain.

The main character, Jess, is Vietnamese American and she experiences racism on-page, both direct racism and indirect racism. I was quite pleased that the racism in the political system wasn’t ignored either, but mentioned, more than once, directly.

I love the types of superpowers that the different superheroes and villains had. I also liked the structure of the superheroes and the villains, and how both sides are influenced by politics and the government. I certainly wasn’t expecting this at the beginning, and was hoping that there would be nuanced characters. The author certainly delivered here, more than I expected. The plot twist caught me by surprise and was really awesome.

There is some romance in the book, and I loved that consent was discussed here and that people were allowed to state what they were comfortable with and that their boundaries were respected.

Jess’ family dynamics were very complex and I found it fascinating to read about how each family member had their personal way of living in this futuristic world, and to find out how their thoughts and actions were influenced by their surroundings and personality. This is also something I feel will be discussed in more detail in the next book.

I loved how two characters got to know each other by writing a story together. It was really interesting reading those scenes, as it makes the reader realise that stories can have personal elements to them.

I didn’t get all of the references to Old America, but that is most probably because I’ve never been there.

I am a huge fan of authors writing the title into the text. It makes me so happy, never mind that it’s a really tiny thing. I certainly squealed with delight, when I read the title here, especially since it totally fits to the dialogue and the scene itself is really cool.

Not Your Sidekick is a really fun and cool book. Certainly, a recommended book from me. The target audience is middle-grade readers and I think this is a perfect middle-grade novel. There’s a lot that you can discuss if you’re reading it as a group. It’s also a good read for those of you who like to read alone.

5 stars

Have you read Not Your Sidekick? What did you think of the story? Are you looking forward to Not Your Villian? If you haven’t read it, would you like to?

6 thoughts on “Review: Not Your Sidekick – C.B. Lee

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