Title: “Not Your Sidekick”
Author: C.B. Lee
Original Publishing Date: 283 pages
Synopsis (from the back):
“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.”
Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:
- mild violence
Representation in the novel:
- biracial (Chinese and Vietnamese) bisexual main character
- trans man side/main character
- sapphic love interest
- f/f relationship
This is the second YA superhero book I have read (the first being Renegades), and let me tell you…I absolutely loved it.
Not Your Sidekick takes place in a futuristic United States, where there are now meta-humans, humans with special abilities. Some of them become superheros, and some are villains (though, I don’t think the book explained very well how people are actually chosen for either track). The book follows Jess Tran, as she tries to balance school, friends, and family. On top of that, not only does she have to hide from everyone that her parents are the local C-list superheroes, but she’s also currently living in her older sister’s shadow, with average grades and as far as she’s figured out, no meta-abilities.
But now, even more: she was recently accepted to work as an intern at a tech company under the mysterious M, along with her crush Abby. Things get interesting as Jess becomes closer with Abby and more is revealed about the company she works for.
There are a ton of things I loved about Not Your Sidekick. One, the diversity: Jess is biracial (Vietnamese and Chinese), Bells is a trans man, there’s an f/f relationship, and it’s just?? Amazing. Not simply because of the diversity itself, but of how it’s handled. There are multiple times throughout the novel where Jess grapples with wanting to be more involved in both Vietnamese and Chinese cultures, but not being fully part of either. It isn’t just a one and done thing. I thought Bells character was amazing, and what is revealed about him later on in the novel really adds to his character, I think.
And and and and. This damn romance. Holy shit. I absolutely loved it. It was so cutesy and fluffy. The reader is in Jess’ head the entire time, so they also deal with all of her cute crush thoughts and feelings. There’s a bit of angst, but it’s very light, in my opinion. What made it even better was that, for me, I figured out a lot of the plot beforehand, so it was so fun to read Jess’ pining scenes.
Going on to more serious things, Not Your Sidekick also delves into themes such as culture and what it means to people, good vs. bad and the grey in between, and so much more.
The only thing I wasn’t quite sure if I liked was the writing style. It seemed kind of stilted at times, and there seemed to be a lot of time-jumping (but not enough that it was hard for me to follow). Along with that, there’s some really cheesy dialogue at points. Not that it was bad in particular (because I’m so down for cheesy cliches because, dammit, marginalized folks deserve it, too), but it was a tad too much for my taste. Just a bit, though.
Also, this wasn’t considered a “bad” thing for me in any case, but the plot did seem a bit too easy to figure out. I knew about a lot of the twists before they happened. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it was what I needed. It’s good to read a cliche, easy-to-read book every now and again. Especially one so fluffy!
So, yeah, overall? This is an extremely strong 4.5 stars out of 5. If it wasn’t for the awkward pacing/dialogue/style every now and then throughout the book, it would definitely be a five-star read for me.