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Not Your Sidekick

Sidekick Squad Series, Book 1
By: C.B. Lee
Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
Length: 8 hrs
4 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)
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Summary

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.

©2016 C.B. Lee (P)2018 Tantor

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    3 out of 5 stars

Heroes & villains-politics of an alternative world

So many superhero stories are coming out currently, for toddlers to primary schools, adults of course, and here's an example of an upper-teenage read. It's an 'alternative reality' scenario, where powers have developed in an X-Men-like way, with the history the heroes a minor plot threading through the story.

Before teenagers turn 17, any power you have will manifest. Jessica is desperate for any she may have to appear, being the daughter of two superheroes. But try as she might, none seem latent within her. In the shadow of a heroic sister as well as parents, Jessica scouts around for a job and finds a rather mysterious one that means she'll be working for a rather questionable boss. For her world also contains villains...

Add to the mix Jessica's crush on her co-worker and fellow high-school student, Abby, and we have a teen fledgling-relationship story mixed into a superhero/villain set-to.

I preferred the first half to the second, at least until near the end when the action picked up - I think the middle may have sagged a little as I was listening. The world of the heroes is a good one, lots of detail through Jessica's school reading assignments, a cute crush story with two girls (for a change) handled naturally (some lovely scenes as they work together on a school project with feelings under the surface), and a growing understanding in the reader of the situation with heroes and villains and how their world sees them.

Jessica is sympathetic, a teenager surrounded by powerful, confident family members and looking to stand out in her own right. The eventual plot is actually a good one, and my full attention returned when it picked up.

The narrator of the audiobook is appropriate enough, a bright and youthful female voice conveying Jessica's vulnerable but spirited persona. It wasn't a long read. I'm not sure I'll continue with the rest of the series, but I am glad I gave this a listen. Brought a new dimension to the superhero canon.

I would recommend this to ages 14 and above. The relationship content is fairly mature but there is nothing unsuitable graphic.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

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  • MissFigg
  • 19-10-18

A fluffy and fun love story

This journey of love and self discovery was a nice listen. Some of the "twists" felt way too obvious for my taste, but I can easily see how others would revel in the build up. The audio quality specifically wasn't balanced well, and I found myself messing with the volume frequently to hear the quiet bits and not feel overwhelmed by the loud bits. Performance was fine, just balancing issues.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • A.J. Barcas
  • 22-08-18

Charming characters & derivative plot

I really, really wanted to like this book and even added the sequel to my wishlist in anticipation of liking it but I have a lot of problems with the execution of this book. I kept holding out hope that the ending at least might wow me. It did not and I have removed the sequel from my wishlist. That said, I hope C.B. Lee gets better with time and wish them all the best.

The good: I liked the characters a lot and we need more LGBT+ and POC authors and stories! Parts of this book were very, very charming. Emily Woo Zeller is a good narrator.

The bad: Experienced readers and savvy young readers will be able to anticipate everything that happens in this book. There is not a single surprising or innovative idea present. Even the term "meta-humans" is not unique. This problem is exacerbated by the choice to only have a single point of view character - if we can see the plot twists coming we could at least get into the heads of the antagonists or the love interest or their friends to understand their motivations/backstories better. Instead, we're stuck with the main character which means that the readers are left just waiting for the plot developments we know are coming to happen. The effect is tedious.

**Spoilers after this point**

This book is like trope madlibs. An intricate government conspiracy involving secret experiments on mutants. Yup. A famous hero who is really a villain who conveniently monologues while being secretly recorded. You betcha. The hero is tempted with the thing they've always wanted by a villain who used to be close to them. Count on it. And there are a lot more.

Other things are so completely obvious to the reader to the point that it makes the protagonist seem dumb for not getting it. Example: on TV the protagonist watches a news report of a new hero called Chameleon who can change his appearance and the appearance of his clothes. When the illusion is broken the fake clothing will shimmer and disappear. These are things that the protagonist knows. Later when a suspicious person shows up to her work and is outed as a spy who then runs away, the jacket that this spy was wearing shimmers and disappears, the protagonists thinks "Is that new tech?" No, it's obviously the shapeshifter, Chameleon. The hero not putting that together only serves to make the hero seem stupid for missing it; it's honestly really disappointing. I'm baffled by the narrative choices to have such obvious plot elements be "mysterious" for so long.

But it's not just that though. The book feels...empty? I'll give you examples: towards the end the team of heroes rescues someone from the villain base. Then they run up three flights of stairs until they run into a bunch of people in "uniforms" who we are supposed to assume are guards plus an antagonist so the heroes run away. The antagonist catches up to them later in a showdown but without guards as backup; the antagonist is described as grabbing a pipe from the ceiling and wielding it as a weapon; nothing about about the location or environment is described. At no time is the pipe described (how large, long, what purpose it serves, etc.), so a few paragraphs later when another pipe breaks and falls down crushing the antagonist it is confusing because up until then it was not clear that any pipes around were large enough to crush a person, knocking them unconscious. So what do the heroes who are on the run decide to do? They take the antagonist's body down three flights of stairs to lock them up in the same cell that the person they came to rescue was locked in. At no point do they run into any guards on the way down. That whole bit is bizarre and there is no sense of scale or scope to scenes. The lack of descriptive text makes it hard to imagine what things look like, where people are in relation to one another, etc. And worse of all it forces the read to think things like "Why would they double back into danger?" It feels like the writer/editor never re-read this section and didn't consider basic logistics.

Even for a YA book, it doesn't contain any suspense or danger.

I hate being so hard on it because I feel the love that the writer put into this but I assure you there are plenty of innovative, rich, LGBT+ inclusive, and interesting books out there for YA readers. This is not one of them.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful