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With Not Your Sidekick, C.B. Lee introduces readers to a world a few hundred years from now, but life hasn’t changed too much. Kids are afraid of disappointing their parents. Friends are blind to each other’s crushes. Younger siblings struggle to fill the footprints left by their older siblings. Oh, but some people have super powers.
Some people, but not Jess. Despite both her parents being superheroes, Jessica Tran has yet to show any special gifts. So it seems like being a career hero is out. When a mysterious internship pops up, Jess decides that she needs something to help fill up her college applications. But the internship turns out to be working for the local super-villain and her parent’s arch nemesis. Her crush Abby also works with the company, so Jess figures they can’t be all bad.
Despite it’s fantastical trappings, Not Your Sidekick contains an astutely rendered, realistic, and humane portrait of high school queer life. Lee’s approaches crushes and teenage life plans with an honesty not often given. It was a little disappointing to see that conversations around trans and bi issues, while almost all positive, are not further along in the distant future. But it was great to see the comfortable and clunky ways teenagers act around issues like pronouns. Jess also tackles issues of being the child of immigrants. The drive to hold onto one’s heritage but the backlash which often comes from school children. The way Jess approaches the challenges in her life make her incredibly relatable. Jess doesn’t have it all together, but she is learning and growing into herself.
Not Your Sidekick is an exciting story full of twists and heart. It is about that first crush, first relationship, first time you realize your strengths might not look like your parents, and all of those other classic teenage moments.
Not Your Sidekick
By C. B. Lee
Paperback, 9781945053030, 294 pp.