Author: C. B. Lee
Publication Date: September 8, 2016
Publisher: Duet, an imprint of Interlude Press
Rating: ★★★★★/ 5 Stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, YA, F/F Romance
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, whom 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.
It’s captivating and powerful, in a much different way than Jess has seen any other meta-human powers—everyone she’s seen before has used their abilities to fight each other, to destroy. This is creation. Invention.
Following Timekeeper with another fantasy book that focused somewhat on electronics was sort of refreshing because whilst Timekeeper was set in the nineteenth century, Not Your Sidekick is set in the year 2108 (I am not sure but I believe so)! The twenty-second century! I feel old and dead just reading the number!
The setting of this book was quite interesting to be honest and as with the case of Timekeeper, the description of electronics was familiar enough from other science-fiction flicks that I didn’t have a difficult to conjure the image of the events going on. I think having this series turn into a TV show would be awesome, if not a bit expensive due to all of the stunt scenes and the technology.
As you can read from the blurb, the main character Jessica (Jess) Tran gets an internship at a very unconventional company which happens to be run by her superhero parents’ enemies: The Mischiefs. I honestly had my own expectations of Jess of being somewhat a meek character but she was just shy. She shared my own love of organization so it didn’t take long for me to develop a very fond quarter of my heart for Jess. Jess also has her own concern of not having a superpower, which is only emphasized by her own sister Claudia’s own success at being a hero and her younger brother Brenden’s genius. It’s through this internship that Jess finds some pride of her own abilities and it does not hurt that it gets her to hang out with her crush: Abby!
Jess often feels as if she’s not Chinese enough in certain situations and not Vietnamese enough in others.
I really like how normal the diversity felt in this book. I didn’t even bat an eyelash at Jessica being half Vietnamese and half Chinese, since her background was a lovely addition that gave her family origin and history. I believe both racial and sexuality orientation representations are #ownvoices since the author is out. I really liked that because there was no way of me getting hurt by this representation. Speaking of, I really liked the way Lee dealt with how Jess felt estranged by the Queer club at school despite having been out. I felt like it was a tasteful method of bringing to attention how bisexual people face a lot of erasure by other members of the LGBT+ community. What I really liked about Jess’ sexuality was how it was never mentioned as something she experimented with, Jess didn’t have to prove that she was bisexual, she simply was.
Abby was a really cute Love Interest that will surprise you. She might seem like the popular Volleyball team captain with her gorgeous Red Hair and cute dresses, but she’s also a very smart girl who made me go *heart eyes* There was this bit where Abby was wearing a dress as “casual” attire. Jess asked why was Abby wearing a dress? and Abby just said that she wore it because she liked it. I don’t know but that moment felt great because Abby didn’t have to explain wearing dresses, they were not a statement. A girl can be as comfortable in a dress as she can be in a pair of shorts/yoga pants. Abby has a very cute side and she is quite supportive of Jess. She uplifts Jess and while some angst occurs, the two never let it stand in between their friendship. I quite enjoyed the slow-burn where both characters obviously pined! *squeals* Love me some mutual pining!
The rest of the cast is also excellent. We’ve got Bells, who’s a trans boy and a special special boy, and there’s Emma, the third in the Jess-Bells-Emma trio, who’s quite relatable. Both Emma and Bells are POC I think and I don’t know about you but no part of their characterization felt forced for me. Not saying that anyone whined about this but it’s not rare for reviewers to nitpick at books which have a diverse cast of characters. Emma and Bells have their own little sub-plot which I believe will be the main of book #2! Just in case you have not read Not Your Sidekick, DON’T GO READ THE BLURB FOR NOT YOUR VILLAIN, because it’s got spoilers.
I’d like to put a little Thank You to Lee for adding the bits about pronouns. Abby using they for Bells when she wasn’t sure, was so comforting. Also, Jessica asking M about her pronouns was so refreshing. I was so pleasantly surprised. See, this is why we need diverse characters, so things like asking for someone’s pronouns are normalized and made as a part of everyday life.
I had some issue getting into the writing style since I am not the biggest fan of third person present simple combination and some parts felt quite lacking for me description wise but it didn’t affect how much I liked this book and how fond I was of the characters. The plot did seem a little bit predictable but nowhere boring or dragging, it was perfectly paced with its own action sequence that I believe would look awesome on screen.
Not Your Sidekick is a twitter loved book and I am so happy to have read it during my Pride Month initiative to read books focusing on queer character by queer authors.
Have you given Not Your Sidekick the chance to make you giggle? If yes, how kickass is the cover for Not Your Villain?
About the Author
C.B. Lee is a bisexual writer, rock climber and pinniped enthusiast based in California. She is a first-generation Asian American and has a BA in Sociology and Environmental Science, which occasionally comes in handy in her chosen career, but not usually. Lee enjoys reading, hiking and other outdoor pursuits. Her first novel, Seven Tears at High Tide, was published by Duet Books (Interlude Press) in 2015 and named a finalist for two Bisexual Book of the Year Awards. Ms. Lee is also a Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voices Fellow.