Today for Fangirl Favorites Friday, I present to you my review for the LGBTQIAP+ MC square of #AsianLitBingo! I chose the book Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee after hearing many rave reviews about it, and I can confirm that it as amazing as you’ve heard. This is the superhero book you’ve all been waiting for! I’m already highly anticipating the sequel, Not your Villain, which comes out later this year. Because…
I’m giving this Not Your Sidekick a perfect 10 out of 10 rating: that’s how amazing it is!
Take it away, Goodreads: 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.
Why do I love it so much? Oh, where to begin?
First of all, one word: superheroes. Who doesn’t love a book with superheroes? There was sort of an Incredibles vibe to them: the heroes have to hide in plain sight, doing mundane jobs, because of the government. I loved reading about all the different powers everyone had, and I thought the idea of having to “recharge” was really intriguing. I also love all the tech in the book, and though there were mentions of a total world war, the “dystopian” society was not based on oppression as they normally are, which was very refreshing.
What really makes this book shine are the characters. Not only is this a superhero story, but it’s a diverse superhero story! Our main character is bisexual and Chinese-Vietnamese, Jess’s best friend is trans and the star of the sequel, and there is a super adorable f/f relationship. The book is written in third person present tense, which makes you feel like you are experiencing all the events of the book alongside the characters. Jess is an extremely relatable character, and I loved reading about all that she thought and said. I especially loved watching her crush on Abby develop and grow, and their relationship is so freaking cute! The thing about this book is that it covers a lot of different topics such as race, gender/pronouns, and sexuality, but they are folded into the story very naturally, which I really appreciate. This is not a coming-out story or the like, but rather a story about a girl who happens to be bisexual, who happens to be Chinese-Vietnamese, and just might be uncovering government secrets.
If you were following my Goodreads updates, you would probably see that I kept saying, “I have a theory,” or “Called It!” It’s probably just me, but I was able to guess a lot of the plot twists in this story. However, it didn’t really matter because it was still a lot of fun to guess and wait and see if I would be right. There were definitely a lot of big reveals and plenty of plot twists to drive the plot along. This book was definitely pretty fast-paced, as can be expected for a superhero novel, and I couldn’t tear myself away from it for just one second.
I think one of the main reasons why I love this book so much is because it was so refreshing to see such a diverse cast as the front focus superheroes rather than the usual cishet white cast. These are the types of thing we need: Asian superheroes, trans superheroes, bisexual heroes. I can’t stress how important this is, and I don’t think my absolute recommendation that you read this book needs any more explanation. Really. Go read it now. You won’t regret it!