~ Warning! Spoilers! Book Review: 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. [GOODREADS]
Not your Sidekick came highly recommended. The plot is interesting and the characters are super diverse. It’s really refreshing and can speak to the many youths out there. That is why I so badly wanted to love this book, but sadly I didn’t. I don’t hate it, but it falls short of expectations. I was excited when I first started reading. It immediately reminded me of the beloved movie, “Sky High”. Jess’ parents are superheroes, but she doesn’t seem to posses any powers herself. Her parents’ cover job is being realtors. Both parents’ powers are flight and super strength, just reverse the genders. How does that not remind me of one of my favorite movies that I recently just rewatched? I was pumped, but then I wasn’t.
One of the major problems in this book is the world building. This is a major reason why I stopped reading it so many times. I originally thought Andover was a different world, but I soon realized I was wrong. It’s future Nevada, 100 years later after WWIII and solar flares. Then, I figured that this is kind of post-dystopian, but it’s not really. At times, it comes off as a modern-contemporary but that’s totally not right because it’s set in the future. This book tries to be a lot of things and introduces a lot of thing. Thus, the world building gets a bit out of whack.
Supposedly, this is a futuristic world where old technology is either expensive or contraband. Yet, this current future technology is supposedly more high-tech than previous stuff. There is implied censorship, but it never gives a reason why. I feel that the world lacks explanation and readers are just told to go with it. Another example is the limiting of driver licenses – why? I need more facts about this future. I understand that this is after WWIII and the discovery of meta-humans. So, where is the power-ism? There are so many different ranking from strong/useful powers to weak/useless one. So why isn’t there beef between the meta-humans or with meta-human and normal humans? Then supposedly, after the war, people are poor, meat is expensive, ghost towns exist. So, where is the class-ism? That is why I don’t understand why so many of these I believe to be real issues don’t existing in this world. Yet, people still hung up on sexuality and race. I am confused especially since I expect the world to become more progressive after 100 years later. Also, why is race an issue when these countries are now collectives? I can’t wrap my head around it.
With all that said, I honestly, really do relate to this book, and that is one of its redeeming factors. I am the middle child like Jess and my younger brother is on his way to becoming a scientist. I am also Asian-American with a father from China and a mother from Vietnam. I find the usage of Vietnamese words endearing and comprehend the struggle of identity with race/ethnicity and nationality. However, this is why I think this book would have been better off as a modern-contemporary. It seems nonsensical in a post-dystopian world 100 years later. How are we still talking about the same racial issues? Even now, in current-day US, this new wave of immigration/immigrants have changed the scene. I don’t/can’t believe it will still be the same 100 years later when it’s already changing now. Therefore, the scene at the Vietnamese restaurant spoke to me and the main characters experiences such as with Chinese school resonated with me and maybe, just possibly, I am being too harsh, but I honestly did not think it fit with the overall plot.
Back to the world building real quick: for some reason, the names of some places and countries have changed, but some have remained the same. Yet, the two areas raging war are made-up? Yes, I actually googled Kravian Islands and Constavia just to be sure they are not real locations. I don’t follow this style of using real places but then making up fake ones and then changing the names of real places. Is it necessary?
Looking online, this book has a lot of great reviews, and I hate that I am not in love with this all-inclusive story. We need more books/characters like these, and that is why I feel awful. Truthfully, the world building is not good, but the idea is good, the diversity is great, and the plot really does get interesting. I was hooked ¾ into the book. It drags at first, but then picks up after getting to the real meat of the story. The whole heroes versus villains but heroes are the evil ones is freaking entertaining. Frankly, this could have been one big book that cuts to the chase faster. This book pretty much ends by stalling. How can things just be okay and go back to normal ‘for now…’?
Before I give my rating, I want to give props to the author for being so progressive and informative even explaining about asking for pronouns and elaborating the Rainbow Allies dynamic. It’s awesome and educational. Plus, the cover and beginning chapter arts are so cool.
I am struggling so hard because I want to give this book a high rating. I wanted to give this book a 2/5, but later the plot does pick up and grabs my attention. It does make me want to see what happens next, so I’ll bump it up to a 2.5/5, and I will think long and hard for if I want to check out the second book later this year because I am curious about the conclusion to the bigger plot.
This is super random, but since I mentioned the movie, “Sky High”, you can check out my movie review for it by clicking this link. Movie Review: Sky High (2005)