Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
High school nobody has found the perfect way to pad her college applications—a paid internship at one of the best corporations in Andover! Pros: she’s working alongside her longtime crush, Abby. Cons: she’s also working for the most dastardly supervillains in Andover! As the daughter of the two greatest superheroes in her city, Jess is torn—but M doesn’t seem all that bad?
Oh this was the cutest dang thing that I’ve listened to in a while. And event though it was narrated by one of my least favorite narrators (seriously, I despise her voice), she did a good job and toned down the raspiness and vocal fry and weird inflections. Score!
First off, let’s talk setting. The United States of America is long gone, after a series of radioactive blasts and WWIII and some other things that happened. It’s been split into multiple countries, which have some differences to modern day times (like AP classes and college and internships and mega-corporations and systematic racism) but also some other things that are much different—robots, self-driving cars, a decent-ish public transportation system, and superheroes.
I was absolutely intrigued by the superhero and supervillain concept, because it seemed too neat and tidy (and the answers towards the end proved why). The superpowers and their classifications were well done, along with the idea that not all superheroes need to be super, and not all heroes are heroes. Everyone is motivated by something.
The plot is also well executed, although it took far longer than it should have for Jess to realize who M was, particularly in a world where there are literal superheroes, supervillains and much duplicity and plotting going around.
Despite Jess’s age (17ish?), this reads a lot younger, making it appropriate for tweens and teens who aren’t quite ready for the YA-that’s-really-written-for-30-year-old-women (this is a self-pwn, btw). And to me, the cover signals MG level instead of upper YA.
And the book tackles tough subjects very nicely, like racism, systematic prejudice, refugees and “who is/is not a citizen and therefore welcome to represent society.” And, of course, it addresses what a hero is—and what one is not.
Which brings me to the diversity! Eeek! So good! MG/Younger YA authors, take note: this is how you do it.
Jess is bisexual, Abby is a lesbian (I’m 90% certain, she might be bi as well I can’t remember), and there is a trans character, an ace character and lots of people of color and many more queer characters. And Karen is the villain (#NotHerRealName).
Anywho, if you’re looking for cute YA to introduce your tweens and younger teens, this is perfect.