TITLE: Not Your Sidekick
AUTHOR: C.B. Lee
GENRE: sci-fi / superhero
PLOT SUMMARY: Jessica Tran is the daughter of C-list superheroes, but she doesn't have C-list powers. To be precise, she doesn't have powers at all. She's disappointed, but is trying to get used to the fact that she'll never be a hero like her parents and sister, and instead focuses on beefing up her college apps. Jess is elated when she stumbles across the perfect internship, but is shocked when she finds out it's a front for the dealings of two of the cities' supervillains... her parents' archenemies. Still, though, Jess sees an opportunity. Specifically, she looks at the situation and can't help but think, "Oh, this will be hilarious." As a nice bonus, she even gets to spend some time with her secret crush, Abby. But, as one may expect, things get real in short order, and Jess finds herself and Abby in quite a bind... and the superheroes can't save them now.
FIRST THOUGHTS: This book has been on my TBR list forever, so I'm glad to have finally gotten to it! I've heard lots of great things about it, but the main draw was the promise of a queer superhero story. Who doesn't want to read that? While I found the beginning to be a bit bumpy, I really, really enjoyed this book, and I think a lot of my friends would, too. I hope this book paves the way for more diverse YA fiction -- especially involving superheroes, because, screw it, I love superheroes. They're the best.
THOUGHTS ON PLOT: As I mentioned above, this book has a bumpy start. While it introduces interesting concepts and plot points right from the first chapter, it takes awhile to really get into the thick of things. Until then, it's mostly character-building -- not that character-building is bad, but sometimes it can get draggy or tedious. However, when the plot picked up, it picked up. I read about 80% of the book in a single sitting. The worldbuilding is especially well-done, and the ending of the book leaves many directions the story could go. While I admit I wish it had wrapped up a little neater, it makes sense, since this is the first entry in a series -- of course things are gonna be a little open-ended. I also really enjoyed the romance in this book, which I felt was realistically and adorably written. (See? I don't oppose all YA romance. I just oppose bad YA romance.)
7 / 10
THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: I love Jess. She's simply wonderful; she's funny, smart, capable, awkward, endearing, and good to her core. She also displayed a remarkable amount of character development for a relatively short book, and really grows as a person. Despite her unusual setting, she felt very much like a real teenage girl, especially in scenes she shares with Abby, the girl she has a crush on. Speaking of which, the romance between Abby and Jess was simply adorable. I was grinning from ear-to-ear when I was reading some of their scenes, and it was the rare romantic subplot that actually deepens the characters. The side characters were great, too, especially M, Abby and Jess' boss at their internship, Jess' superhero parents, and her friends Bells and Emma. Jess and Abby definitely steal the show, but the supporting cast is very well-rounded, and serve as great foils and comparisons to our two leading ladies.
8 / 10
THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: This was a book that was hard for me to get into at first. The chapters all felt a little too long, and it felt like some sections were just going on and on and on. There were also multiple grammar errors that slipped past the editor that were somewhat distracting. Still, the plot and characters were engaging enough for me to continue on, and I'm glad I did -- halfway through the book, the plot really began to pick up, and the climax was very well-done. I just wish the level of quality had been consistent, especially since some people may not stick it out. I wouldn't want anyone to give up on a good book because of a less-than-stellar beginning, but it happens. (Hell, I've done it.)
5 / 10
THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: YESSSSSSSS. What sparked my interest in this book was that the lead character is a bisexual girl of color, and when I actually began reading, I was delighted to find that that was far from the only representation. There are multiple queer characters, multiple POC, and, with the exception of Jess' friend Bells, all the major players are women. None of the minority characters are stereotyped or one-dimensional caricatures; even the minor characters are fleshed out and human. We need more books like this; books that have multiple minority characters, rather than one or two tokens, and books where the diversity doesn't serve any "narrative purpose," it's just there because, well... that's how life works! The world is not male, cis, straight, and white, so why should all our books be?
10 / 10
FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a fun, cute read, and I'm glad I gave it a shot after hearing so many people gush about it. I'm not sure whether or not I'm going to continue on with the series yet, but I have the first sequel, Not Your Villain, on my "to-read" shelf on Goodreads, so we'll see. I would love to see a movie or TV adaptation of this book; I think it'd work really well in live-action. Overall, it was well worth the time it took to read it, and I hope more people discover it very, very soon.
FINAL GRADE: 7.5 / 10
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If you've read Not Your Sidekick, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!