Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee


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.

Let me introduce to you my new favourite book.

Not Your Sidekick is one remarkable, superpowered book. It has everything that I want in a book: it has superheroes and supervillains, a lovable Asian protagonist, gorgeous friendships, and heart-melting crushes. Though the pieces of Not Your Sidekick may sound familiar, Lee has crafted a beautifully cohesive story that puts a refreshing spin on the increasingly hackneyed superhero narrative. Needless to say, I was enthralled by this book.

Nobody may expect Jessica Tran to ever be a heroine of a story – she’s average in everything, completely forgettable (unlike her perfect sister Claudia), and, more pressingly, is without any remarkable superpowers (unlike her parents, who are the town’s superheroes). And yet, I found Jess to be one of the most delightful protagonists I have read in a very long time. I believe an aim of writing is to achieve a sense of humanness with your characters, and Lee succeeds with her characters in Not Your Sidekick. All characters in the book possessed an impressive depth and complexity that made them feel whole and human, complete with authentic and memorable voices.

Smasher and Shockwave are the two resident heroes of Andover … Jess knows them as Mom and Dad.

The relationships in Not Your Sidekick were wonderful, and true highlights of the story. I adored Jess’s friends, Bells and Emma; both dynamic characters with quirks, shortcomings, and strengths of their own. The romance was made of everything good in this world with its engaging development, founded on a friendship, and built on mutual trust, support, and empowerment. Reading the dialogue and exchange between Jess and her love interest made me giddy with joy and also filled me with genuine hope. The identity of her love interest should come as no surprise – the narrative drops plenty of hints, but the predictability of the romance is what gives it its charm.

The narrative offers an exploration of identity, a discourse that I loved and appreciated especially in how it was conveyed. There is a moment in the book that probes Jess, who is Chinese and Vietnamese, to reflect and contemplate her cultural identity and mixed identity. Reading this small part gave me a piece of what it feels like to be understood, and it was so validating. It was such a positive and important experience to see a piece of myself in Jess and on print. I related to her doubts, anxieties, fears, alienation, and that deep yearning. I related to her not enough’s that come with bicultural identities, and the daunting and seemingly impossible task of trying to locate yourself within a multitude of social fabrics and identities.

Jess often feels as if she’s not Chinese enough in certain situations and not Vietnamese enough in others. It’s awkward when you’re not quite one but not quite the other.

And of course, the book also delivers on the superhero and supervillain front. If you love superhero/supervillain narratives but you are starting to get a little tired of them (like me), then read this book. Not Your Sidekick explores heroism and villainism, by deconstructing the dichotomy and asks some thought-provoking and important questionsWhy are people heroes? What makes someone a hero or a villain? At the heart of the story though, is the ongoing question of what it means to be ‘great’ in the midst of greatness, and the importance of staying true to oneself.

To sum, I loved this book. Fresh and brimming with positive portrayals and so many things done right, Not Your Sidekick is an outstanding book and one of my favourite books this year.

Rating: 5/5

Book Information
Book Name: Not Your Sidekick
Book Series: Not Your Sidekick #1
Author: C.B. Lee
Publisher: Duet Books
Format: eBook

Not Your Sidekick in:
Goodreads | Book Depository | My review on Goodreads

I loved everything about this book and I hope all of you will do yourselves a favour and read this wonderful book! More so, it’s #ownvoices and it really shines through in this book. Thank you so much to Daisy for recommending this book to me. Her recommendations have not led me astray thus far!

  • Have you read Not Your Sidekick? What did you think?
  • I felt represented and my experiences validated when reading this book. What was the last book that made you feel represented?
  • On the topic of superheroes… what is your favourite superhero narrative?

36 thoughts on “Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

  1. I want to read this book so so so so very badly. I’m even more excited about the fact that the main character is mixed, because as mixed myself, I often times feel excluded from both cultures. Mainly because I don’t know either language enough. SO YES THIS RESONATES WITH ME. And I’m sure I will absolutely love this when I do get to it.

    Awesome review CW!

    • Hi Val!

      My ethnicity isn’t mixed, but I call myself a New Zealand Chinese, and I feel the tear between the two sometimes (esp with New Zealand’s history of xenophobia). I think you will love this book though – it has that little line of honesty, but it is filled with a lot of good representation and it’s very heartwarming and fun. :D

      Hehe thanks so much Val! <3

  2. What a fantastic review, once again. Reading your blog posts and reviews are my favorite part of my blogging routine.
    I didn’t know anything about this book before you talked about it a bit on Twitter, if I remember correctly, and now i am completely sold, I need to add it to my TBR. It is so great to have a mixed character like that, and I feel like this book could bring a huge smile on my face while I read. I shall run to Goodreads RIGHT NOW.

    • Hi Marie!

      Oh thank you!! Gosh, you’re so kind. I really need to get around to reading everyone’s blogs, but I’ve been feeling SO overwhelmed lately!

      Yes I talked about it on Twitter! I just loved it that much. XD Ooh I hope you read it. I think it’s just such a wonderful book, and that you’ll enjoy it very much. It has the same feel as Simon vs, if that helps!!

  3. I have not heard of this book yet, but it sounds completely up my alley. And after your glowing review, how could I not add this to my TBR? 😄
    The concept of this book resonates with me, but the last time I read a book where I really felt like I could connect with the characters? Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. #NerdGirl

  4. Awesome review! I really, really want to read this book. It sounds amazing, and your review has just made me x10000000 more excited to get it.

  5. YESS I could not agree more! I thought that the fact Jess is bi is also super important – it’s not often a character explicitly and proudly states that they’re bisexual, and it really meant a lot to me in a book that is otherwise delightful. :-)

  6. I already really wanted to read this book, and now you’ve made me even more desperate to buy it! I fell in love just from reading the synopsis. I need this book like I need air! Please please bug me to get it, because I know this will be one I love. Thank you so much for this review, cw!

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