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Not Your Sidekick

Sidekick Squad Series, Book 1
By: C.B. Lee
Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
Series: Sidekick Squad Series, Book 1
Length: 8 hrs
Categories: Teens, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
4.5 out of 5 stars (90 ratings)

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Publisher's 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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic Listen

I was all in on this one. The pain of not living up to the family business of super powers. Definitely a hidden gem

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

YA superhero romance done right

The plot was all very obvious, even giving away most of it in the synopsis. I found myself constantly looking for the twist that would flip my planned plot line on its head, but it never came. Normally I'd be unhappy with this but the story was such a cute little adventure that I quite enjoyed it. I would compare this to rereading a favourite novel and seeing all the little hints you missed over the first time around. With the twists being so obviously telegraphed, I was able to enjoy the minor details the whole time.

The characters were also... cute. No one is amazingly unique, or perfectly fleshed out, but they're all fun and enjoyable. A few of the minor characters wound up seeming a bit flat, but even those were forgivable with the main two being so likeable.

I don't really want to pick at any one thing to improve the book since I think that altering it in any way might destroy the delicate balance it has struck with me.

One thing that I really enjoyed about this book was how it talked about sex and gender. Instead of being a defining characteristic about them it's usually just mentioned in passing and never a big deal. This is personally how I feel it should be treated and am happy whenever I notice it.

In the end I would recommend this story to any fans of young adult fiction or superheroes.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

best book I've ever read, amazing narration

trans girl here, and this story has given me 18 years of extra life by being so cute, charming, awkward, badass, meaningful, and just unafraid to say exactly what it wants to say. I highly recommend this to anyone in minority communities and tired of having to settle for seeing themselves only vaguely reflected in popular media, and especially to anyone in the lgbt community who's tired of having to face constant homophobia, transphobia, and other general bigotry in the stories our community tells. Of course telling stories of that pain is important, but this book manages to be authentic with its lgbt characters without containing potentially traumatic content that far too many of have faced irl, which is really nice when said content can send you into a depressive episode or is otherwise difficult to experience in media that contains it.

I'm so, so excited to continue this story in the next books!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Plot's predictable - til it twists! Fun & original

I enjoyed the first few chapters of the novel while feeling like I knew exactly where it was headed (the secret identities of some of the superpowered characters, for instance, can be seen a mile away)......but then, gradually, the plot steered itself in directions I had no idea were coming! A cute but simple but cute story suddenly became much more complex and interesting. The common-to-fiction powers of flight and super-strength, for instance, are joined by a couple powers I've never seen in superpower fiction. Characters who seemed straightforward reveal new layers. And the whole premise of supervillain vs. superhero battles being consumed as entertainment, which is interesting in its own right, becomes even more fascinating as more facts about those battles are revealed.
This novel a fun read (/listen) all the way through, but it also ends up exploring serious themes like racism, media consumption, what counts as criminal behavior, and government control.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

love at front cover!

when I first saw the cover of the book I knew this would be an amazing book. The dynamics of each character stood out awesomely and I could relate alot to Jess, awesome book, awesome story, definitely a most read.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great story and great read

The main characters have a distinct sound which is nice. The story itself has some twists you'll see coming but you're supposed to. Feeling you knew those distracts from some other surprises later. Story is fun, switches well between serious and silly.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Predictable but Not Bad

(Note: I am at this moment about 1/2 through the book) About 1/4 of the way through the book I already was tempted to yell at my phone/computer/mp3 player because one of the "hidden" identity things is just so obvious that I'm not sure even Jess would be that blind. The rest of it is fairly predictable and if I was reading it instead of listening to it, I would probably be done with the book under an hour. The plot is plain, the story (while not bad) is unoriginal and I'm not really seeing anything that screams to me that it's new.

There are two things going for this; 1) The person reading this is pretty good (I have very limited comparisons as I bought this audio book when it was unavailable at my library and the bookstore without having to wait 2 weeks). 2) It is the only time all these ideas have been brought together in a single published book.

I would recommend this if you don't mind predicable plots because it is still enjoyable. But I wouldn't recommend it if you're looking for something new. This is a plot I have read multiple times in fanfiction for better or worse, and surprisingly more often than not those are a bit better done. But it is nice to be able to have something that has been published. I would not say any money bought for this book is wasted .The author has potential and I do encourage supporting that. I also hope that as time goes on the writing gets better with new publications.

Despite my panned review of this book.
I do plan on getting the sequel, either on here or in book form.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

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.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for K. J. Noyes
  • K. J. Noyes
  • 07-26-18

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.