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 questions: Why 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.
Book Name: Not Your Sidekick
Book Series: Not Your Sidekick #1
Author: C.B. Lee
Publisher: Duet Books
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?