Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee – Trans superhero MC, teens fighting for what’s right, and… confessing to your crush? (Yes please!)

Summary:

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

I received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My review:

In case you didn’t know, Not Your Sidekick was my favourite book of 2017, and remains to be one of my favourite books of all time. So, you can imagine how excited and ecstatic I was I was given the privilege to read its sequel, Not Your Villain! I adored Not Your Villain, and I cannot wait to tell you why.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the first part of Not Your Villain overlaps with the events that take place in Not Your Sidekick, but from Bells’s perspective. It was a fantastic way to ease into the new developments of the story, and also gave us an opportunity to become acquainted with and understand Bells a little better. We get the opportunity to see Bells attending Meta-Human Training and what it was like to train as a prospective superhero. Moreover, we get to see more of their world; whilst Not Your Sidekick was mostly confined to Andover, Not Your Villain takes us to places such as Aerial City and other exciting places. Not only was it cool to see Lee’s vision of a world recovering from an apocalyptic event, but it was also an opportunity to learn history through fictional spaces and geography. It was wonderful to see the worldbuilding developed a little more.

Bells was such a brilliant character, and I adored him. He is kind, sharp, witty, and cares so much for his friends. His perspective was fantastic, and I enjoying seeing the transformation of budding superhero that was eager to please to someone who wants justice despite being framed as a villain, and the effect this had on him and the trajectory of his journey. Although we knew that Bells was a shapeshifter in Not Your Villain, the nature of his powers, though still an enigma, are explored alongside with Bells’s personal discovery of his powers and their potential. Furthermore, Bells’s trans experience and identity integrates with the story well, even briefly exploring how this interacts with his shapeshifting prowess. Altogether, I loved how Bells’s narrative was so… genuine, warm, and vulnerable. I cannot wait for all of you to fall in love with him. He is just such a gem.

What I really loved about Not Your Villain was that we got to see more of the other characters. Though Not Your Sidekick focused a lot on Jess and Abby, we get to see even more of Jess and Abby, but we also get to learn more about Emma, Brandon, and some new characters. For one, we get to meet Bells’s parents, and I adored them. I loved how Bells had such a close-knit and supportive family, particularly his close relationship with his father. Moreover, whilst Emma and Bells was strongly hinted at in Not Your Sidekick, the chemistry and relationship between the two of them in this book was sublime. I also loved how they had such a strong friendship, enjoyed (and simultaneously was absolutely distraught) when their friendship and love was tested, and loved seeing them grow together through thick and thin. Seeing such a strong and loving friendship, flaws and hiccups and all, was absolutely wonderful.

The overarching story of the Sidekick Squad starts to get very interesting in Not Your Villain. Slowly, we begin to see who the real antagonist is (and what I’m liking is that it’s not an individual, but something much larger than one person), and characters showing their true colours – with some unexpected surprises. Underlying this, however, is a theme that I really love in this series: that even teens who are determined and hold true to justice and goodness can be heroes. Indeed, the concept of heroism and villainism is blurred, and highlights that the media plays a big role in what is portrayed as good versus evil. The messages in this book are refreshing, needed, and empowering, and are delivered with earnest and enthusiasm. My only criticism of Not Your Villain was that parts of the end felt a little rushed and the narrative a little jumpy, but it didn’t impede my enjoyment of the book. Rest assured, Not Your Villain is indeed a fantastic book.

Furthermore, fans of the book will be pleased to know that there’s going to be a third installment of the series, and it’ll be from Emma’s perspective! If you’re feeling ambivalent about Emma, just wait until you read Not Your Villain – you’ll adore her and you’ll be just as excited as I am for Not Your Backup! Brimming with positivity and warmth, Not Your Villain is a solid sequel to Not Your Sidekick and it met my very high expectations. Although I adore Not Your Sidekick a little more – and for personal reasons; it was one of the first books where I felt represented after all, and therefore has a very special place in my heart – I can see Not Your Villain resonating and being a favourite for many. You absolutely need this book.

Rating: 4 / 5

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | My review on Goodreads


Is this book for you?

Premise in a sentence: A shapeshifting meta-human is framed as a villain; he and his friends set off on a mission to fight back against the corrupted heroes organization.

Perfect for: Readers who want to read about a black trans superhero, and want a heartwarming read.

Genre: Young adult, science-fiction

Recommended? Absolutely, especially if you enjoyed Not Your Sidekick!

Trigger/content warnings: none that I can think of – please let me know if I need to include any!


Let’s discuss!

  • Have you read Not Your Sidekick? Did you enjoy it? Are you looking forward to reading Not Your Villain?
  • What are you most looking forward to in Not Your Villain?
  • What is another YA book with a QPOC (queer person of colour) protagonist? Do you have any recommendations?
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9 thoughts on “Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee – Trans superhero MC, teens fighting for what’s right, and… confessing to your crush? (Yes please!)

  1. I definitely need to read this series (although normally I prefer to wait until they’re all released). Your comment about Bells having a supportive family just pushed these way higher on my TBR – I love books with strong family relationships.

    QPoC books are sort of like disabled PoC ones, I haven’t come across many. The Family Fletcher series has some diverse kids but I think the two dads are both white. Engel’s Baby’s First Words has both… but that’s a board book for little kids.

  2. I’m intrigued now. Not Your Villian has been on my list for ages, and reading that it retells the story through a different perspective makes it even more interesting for me. Can’t wait to read about superhero training! I also love that the villain isn’t just one person, so much more realistic!

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