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Sidekick Squad #1

Not Your Sidekick

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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.

283 pages, Paperback

First published September 8, 2016

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C.B. Lee

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,653 reviews
Profile Image for Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd).
332 reviews7,309 followers
December 27, 2016

Ok, I'll try to be more coherent now.

I think this book is fully deserving of 4.5 stars (damn you, Goodreads, for not giving me half star options!) and I am utterly in love with it. I am a sucker for superhero stories that are against the norm, stories that embrace silliness in superhero tropes and manage to make those stories new even if the conventions are the same. And this book is everything I wanted it to be.

This felt like such a step forward in terms of the LGBTQIA+ lit I want to see written in the future. It was refreshing and so full of multiple queer characters of color who also got to fall in love and save the world and be happy, regardless of their race or orientation. This had all the fun of Sky High or Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, but it let a bisexual, biracial girl take center stage. I knew 20 pages in I would read any number of books about her, about her crush Abby, about her trans friend Bells, about any of them at all. And it just kept impressing me.

This book has predictable elements, but those moments are intentional in their predictability. This book embraces tropes in this genre and gives those who have been pushed aside in superhero narratives the chance to be the ones telling their stories. And I couldn't believe how much it refreshed a genre that, at this point, was feeling over-saturated to me.

The romance was adorable. It was sweet, and funny, and felt so real. The world-building was incredibly well done, and I felt like it only got more detailed and fascinating as the book continued. Every side character was written with as much care as Jessica, our main character, and they could easily have each carried a book of their own. My only problem with this book was an occasional pacing issue, feeling like some things happened too quickly and other things weren't given quite enough time. But that doesn't begin to limit how much I adored reading this book.

I will be doing a full video review soon, so look for that. I'm sure much more gushing will occur. And seriously, this book is so worth every person's time. It comes out on September 8th and I am imploring you to go pick it up. Now, WHERE IS BOOK TWO??

**I was provided an ARC of this book by the publisher**
Profile Image for may ➹.
471 reviews1,899 followers
June 14, 2020
3.5 stars

Not Your Sidekick follows a Chinese-Vietnamese girl named Jess, as she navigates being the daughter of two superheroes and feeling like a shadow to her family’s successes. On top of that, she uncovers a sinister secret about the world she lives in while also dealing with her crush on a cute girl.

Going into this book with lowered expectations really saved this for me. I really wanted to love this, but I knew that this was going to be a book on the more fun, entertaining side, rather than anything too deep. And I don’t mean that as an insult! Some books are just meant to entertain, which is perfectly fine. That’s exactly what it accomplished with me and I was happy (and it pleasantly surprised me when there were some more intricate things at play).

If I’m being honest, Jess didn’t really stand out to me as a super well-developed character. Her biggest struggle is feeling “average” both in her normal school life and in regards to her lack of superpowers, and there were some great discussions about her bicultural identity and how it leads her to feel out of place in both communities.

But while I connected with her and was invested in her journey throughout the book, it felt like there was still something preventing me from falling completely in love with her. She was a great protagonist with a fun voice that I liked and cared about, and it was enjoyable for me to follow her throughout the book, but I felt like there could have been more from her.

(As a Southeast Asian bisexual person, though, I really loved that she was a Chinese-Vietnamese bisexual girl!! And I loved seeing how she couldn’t speak Vietnamese very well, because her parents never really taught it to her, but she still made an attempt to speak it—that is pretty much my exact experience with Thai.)

The other characters are really delightful! There’s Abby, the well-loved “popular” girl Jess has a not-so-secret crush on, and also her best friends Bells and Emma. I loved the way their relationships with Jess were developed, and I really enjoyed reading their interactions. I’m especially excited to read more from them in the next books of the series!

I think the thing that makes me say this is “not a perfect book” is the plot. It was really, really predictable, so that took out a bit of the fun for me. Sure, it was entertaining for me as the reader to know certain things that Jess didn’t and watch her embarrass herself, but I think it’s important for a book to have some level of mystery or intrigue, especially when this book relied a lot on the idea of not knowing exactly what’s going on.

However, I still thought the book was enjoyable enough despite the predictability and a few plot holes, which is why it’s not getting a lower rating from me! I just had so much fun reading it, and I didn’t want to put it down once in the 3 hours I binged it all in one sitting.

The romance was probably my favorite part of the book, though. Yes, it suffered from a lot of predictability like the plot, but god, it was so cute. I thought the development of it was exceptionally well-done, and you could tell they were both pining so hard for each other. I was just really invested in them!! And I couldn’t want for them to get together. (Also, I loved that classic trope!)

Overall, I definitely would go into this expecting a fun book—because that’s what you’ll get! There are a few objective issues with the actual craft of the story, but for me, having those adjusted expectations allowed me to enjoy the story to the point that those issues didn’t affect my reading experience too much. If an entertaining superhero story with a cute f/f romance interests you, I definitely recommend this one, and I’m excited to read the rest of this series!


:: rep :: Chinese-Vietnamese bisexual MC, wlw LI, Black trans male side character, Latinx side character

:: content warnings :: racism, violence (superhero battle type), kidnapping, captivity/imprisonment
Profile Image for CW ✨.
631 reviews1,689 followers
May 9, 2017
Let me introduce to you my new favourite book.

Not Your Sidekick is one remarkable, superpowered book. It has everything that I want in a book: it has superheroes and supervillains, a lovable Asian protagonist, gorgeous friendships, and heart-melting crushes. Though the pieces of Not Your Sidekick may sound familiar, Lee has crafted a beautifully cohesive story that puts a refreshing spin on the increasingly hackneyed superhero narrative. Needless to say, I was enthralled by this book.

Nobody may expect Jessica Tran to ever be a heroine of a story - she's average in everything, completely forgettable (unlike her perfect sister Claudia), and, more pressingly, is without any remarkable superpowers (unlike her parents, who are the town's superheroes). And yet, I found Jess to be one of the most delightful protagonists I have read in a very long time. I believe an aim of writing is to achieve a sense of humanness with your characters, and Lee succeeds with her characters in Not Your Sidekick. All characters in the book possessed an impressive depth and complexity that made them feel whole and human, complete with authentic and memorable voices.
Smasher and Shockwave are the two resident heroes of Andover ... Jess knows them as Mom and Dad.

The relationships in Not Your Sidekick were wonderful, and true highlights of the story. I adored Jess's friends, Bells and Emma; both dynamic characters with quirks, shortcomings, and strengths of their own. The romance was made of everything good in this world with its engaging development, founded on a friendship, and built on mutual trust, support, and empowerment. Reading the dialogue and exchange between Jess and her love interest made me giddy with joy and also filled me with genuine hope. The identity of her love interest should come as no surprise - the narrative drops plenty of hints, but the predictability of the romance is what gives it its charm.

The narrative offers an exploration of identity, a discourse that I loved and appreciated especially in how it was conveyed. There is a moment in the book that probes Jess, who is Chinese and Vietnamese, to reflect and contemplate her cultural identity and bicultural identity. Reading this small part gave me a piece of what it feels like to be understood, and it was so validating. It was such a positive and important experience to see a piece of myself in Jess and on print. I related to her doubts, anxieties, fears, alienation, and that deep yearning. I related to her not enough's that come with bicultural identities, and the daunting and seemingly impossible task of trying to locate yourself within a multitude of social fabrics and identities.
Jess often feels as if she's not Chinese enough in certain situations and not Vietnamese enough in others. It's awkward when you're not quite one but not quite the other.

And of course, the book also delivers on the superhero and supervillain front. If you love superhero/supervillain narratives but you are starting to get a little tired of them (like me), then read this book. Not Your Sidekick explores heroism and villainism, by deconstructing the dichotomy and asks some thought-provoking and important questionsWhy are people heroes? What makes someone a hero or a villain? At the heart of the story though, is the ongoing question of what it means to be 'great' in the midst of greatness, and the importance of staying true to oneself.

To sum, I loved this book. Fresh and brimming with positive portrayals and so many things done right, Not Your Sidekick is an outstanding book and one of my favourite books this year.

Rating: 5/5


This review can also be found on my book blog, Read, Think, Ponder!
Profile Image for thefourthvine.
504 reviews196 followers
October 23, 2017
I so very much wanted to love this book. I love the concept -- teenage mutant superheroes, with lots of different identities represented! -- but I did not love the execution.

The worldbuilding was wildly inconsistent. We've got an earth where all the countries are different, where much of the world is uninhabitable, where people with mutant powers now fly through the air and save people, where robots have personalities and everyone has hologrammatic wrist devices. But the social norms are pretty much exactly where they are today. Right down to the fact that while the main character is bi, and one of her friends is trans, and another of her friends is either lesbian or bi, all of the parent generation seem to be heterosexually, monogamously married. And there's a very anvil-intensive bit where one of the characters makes a Big Deal over another one using "they" as a singular pronoun -- so cool! -- which is, I hope, going to look wildly dated in about five years. It's just ... odd that the entire world could change, but gender identity recognition would still be precisely where it is today.

And honestly I could go on about the worldbuilding problems all day long, because everything is like that. The author hasn't thought through any of the changes, or imagined a future that is fundamentally different from ours; instead, they've thrown a lot of set dressing and new words together and just kind of hoped that it would work. And they've constructed a plot that requires us to accept that the main character, who is otherwise quite smart, simply never notices anything or asks any questions about her world. But I need to talk about another thing that made me so unhappy reading this: the romance.

I really, really wanted to love the romance. I've been looking for cute YA f/f romance since I *was* a queer YA, and this had exactly that! Complete with crush, and longing, and all the rest of it. And then it took a left turn into a trope I hate. Jess has a crush on Abby, and she works with Abby and the mysterious, mecha-suited M. But she never sees Abby and M at the same time. You see where this is going, right? And of course Jess discusses her crush with M, who eggs her on and asks questions and then uses that knowledge as Abby to try to pursue a relationship with Jess. And -- ew. That's a relationship that is FOUNDED on lies. Like, if M-Abby had tried to change the subject, it'd still be uncomfortable. But when Abby has this secret (and a huge power imbalance, since M is Jess's boss), and she uses it to gain knowledge about Jess that Jess doesn't want her to have? And then their relationship is built on that? Ew.

The sad part is, I really do think there's a good book hidden inside this one. But it would have taken a lot more editing and rewriting to bring it out. And that didn't happen. I'm so sad! This book seemed born for me to love. Alas.
Profile Image for Faith Simon.
191 reviews163 followers
April 7, 2019
Y'ALL. Where has the gay superhero universe been all of my life??
So I've been hearing this book absolutely hyped to high heaven since it was released, by any reviewer or booktuber you could possibly think of. So naturally, I was a bit skeptical going into this, thinking that I would probably find this to be way too overhyped and end up not enjoying it as much as everybody else, or worse, my high expectations would completely ruin the story for me. Neither of these things occurred, for which I am so endlessly glad. I ended up really adoring this book! The hype, well extensive, is very much deserved.
The beginning of the book was interesting enough, I found that backstory was explained in a way that wasn't too slow and boring or confusing but also wasn't rushed to get into the actual story, I liked the smooth flow of the backstory explanation. While the story sort of took a bit of time to actually get anywhere interesting, the friendship dynamic between Jess and her friends was interesting enough that I was still invested in them as characters and wasn't bored waiting for things to happen.
I listened to this book via audiobook, and the narrator's voice was the most expressive voice I think I've ever listened to, everyone was so enthusiastic and the robot voices were insanely robotic and it was just a pleasure to listen to, truly. (I also spent like half the book mishearing Bells' name and thinking his name was Balls).
I liked that Bells wasn't revealed to be trans until a while later in the story, I spent a good amount of time thinking he was cis without suspecting anything. And honestly, good. This mirrors real life, you're not always going to be able to tell if somebody is trans, and you're not entitled to know if they are or not. I think this book has really good trans and bi representation. That's where most of the praise of this story comes from, after all. I was not disappointed.
Once Jess got her internship, I knew the main plot point of the story was happening, but I wasn't really truly invested in the story until I started catching the sketchy things that were going down, and once I caught on to what was going on, then I couldn't have been any more invested in this story. I LOVED the plot twist, it's written in a way that doesn't seem too easy to have guessed, but also makes you feel like you're watching the story unfold from afar, knowing something that Jess doesn't and just waiting for her to figure it out.
This story was really light and fluffy, it certainly isn't all happy-go-lucky, but that's why the atmosphere of this book is just so great, some serious events obviously go down, but the main theme of the book is surrounding Jess and her huge adorable crush, and it's just so cute and pure and I love that this book balances these themes so well to make such a thoroughly enjoyable read.
I love the worldbuilding and I love the story and I love the characters and I can't really find a single bad thing about this book. I'm so happy I read it.
Profile Image for tappkalina.
642 reviews395 followers
November 8, 2020
This one was everything I wanted and more!
Jess and Abby are definitely my new favourite couple and the story blew me away. It's really not what you would think at first.
I'm about to start book 2.

“How can you like me?” Jess says. “You just—you started hanging out with me after I told M I liked you!”
“Oh, come on! I told you to ask me out!”
“I didn’t know you liked girls!”
“I do!”
“Good! I do too!”
The kiss is wet and quick.
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
543 reviews3,551 followers
October 13, 2017
Actual Rating: 4.5 stars

Full review originally posted on my blog: Word Wonders

I’ve had this book on my TBR for the best part of a year because it’s one of my friend cw’s favorite books and she’s always raving about how good it is, I also got the ebook around a couple months ago and while I was planning to pick it up right away, it’s safe to say I got distracted but I finally read it and I DO NOT REGRET IT. It is so so good, such a fun, quick read that has important underlaying themes and I adored that about it.

The writing is fairly simple, it takes nothing to get into it, it’s light, fast and just right for the book. It starts off pretty infodumpey in the first chapter or so but that quickly changes when that “base” is set and the world building flows much more nicely, I didn’t even feel myself learning new things about this post WWIII world until I found myself knowing everything I need to know and that is… the opposite of how I was feeling in that first chapter. The whole superhero/supervillain concept is fairly popular, and used in plainty books and consumable media in general, but the way the author goes about it here is quite frankly a breath of fresh air.

The superheros/villains are meta-humans who got their powers after a nuclear flair and all of it is related to genetics which was awesome because it makes sense since nuclear radiations change humans on a genetic level (it mutates DNA sequences… I’ll stop the doctor talk now, I promise). They’re also pretty common but not all equal, some can use their powers for less than an hour a day while some can use them the whole day and it was definitely interesting to see that play out in battles, confrontations and such.

The plot itself picks up later in the novel which I didn’t really mind at all because 1/ I loved the build-up to the romance, and the girls getting to know each other, 2/ The focus on the friendship was awesome and 3/ The book is hella entertaining even before Jess discovers anything and it all turns South. Once that’s happens, everything happens so fast, the pace picks up and a real sense of danger starts looming over the characters and my brain started going “WHAT IS THIS BETRAYAL” because before that everything was cute and funny and now the whole world is in danger.

The story is very predictable, probably the most predictable thing I’ve ever read haha, but it’s obvious that it’s done on purpose and I don’t know why but I actually loved that, it makes everything funnier because the reader knows but Jess doesn’t know, especially when it comes to her work and romance situation, she makes a fool out of herself more times than one which was adorable but also hilarious. To summarize it all, Not Your Sidekick doesn’t take itself too seriously. And this is what I meant by that tag line, on the outside, it’s all predictability and fun but it actually manages to deal with a few things and C. B. Lee does so greatly.

First off, in a passage, the author explores Jess’s bicultural identity (she’s chinese and vietnamese), that feeling of not completely belonging on either side but wanting to so bad, she also tackles racism when a certain someone start talking about Jess’ parents as “lesser” because they’re not white. Then, throughout the whole novel and as the MC uncovers the schemes, she explores the definition of being heroes/villains and how it’s often a lot more complicated than the black and white way we all see it, and how it’s also a matter of perception and how people aren’t always who we think they are.

Now to the characters, they are so freaking great. I loved every single one of them, or at least… the ones I am supposed to love. Jess is such an amazing, well fleshed out main character. She’s funny, cynical, strong but still has a lot of insecurities that stem from growing up in the shadow of not only her older sister who has powers but her younger brother as well who is a “genius”. And the best thing about it all was her character development and how she was able to break out of that shadow and become her own person, being true to herself and her values. Bonus point os for the actual use of “bisexual” to describe her sexuality. Seeing it on page is great.

Abby, her love interest is adorable as well. She has this whole facade of miss popularity (not the mean girl kind, but the kind who is loved by everyone) but underneath it she’s such a genuinely sweet and caring person who would do anything for the people she loves. Their romance MADE MY HEART MELT. It’s so cute and innocent and it just gives me all the heart eyes, I loved the awkwardness of the start and presumably unrequited crush, then the easy banter of the middle and to end it all, the flirty teasy banter of once they both know they have feelings for each other. Their relationship’s evolution feels so natural because none of it is forced and it’s just… *happy sigh* It made me genuinely happy.

Jess’s best friends are equally awesome. Emma is latina and Bell is a black trans boy, and all three of them make such a strong friends’ group and when Abby joins them she just fits perfectly. It was equally cute and infuriating to see Bell navigate his crush on Emma who gets a crush on a different guy every week and is completely clueless. The second book Not Your Villain is from his point of view so I’m SUPER excited to read that one, I got approved for an eArc of it so that will be happening soon and I cannot wait.
Profile Image for Ngoc Diep.
313 reviews19 followers
October 11, 2016
This book was everything I need in my life.

Jess Tran is a bisexual Vietnamese-Chinese young adult trying all her life to find the superpower that is meant for her. Having parents as well-known superheroes and a sister who basically succeeds in life, Jess feels the massive pressure on her that she's disappointing her family. One day, she stumbles upon an internship that sounds just perfect to her but she ends up finding out that the company is owned by the supervillains... Well, at least, she is able to work along her crush Abby, right?

First off, I could relate to Jess very, very much (not only because she's Vietnamese like me ha ;P). She self-doubted herself a lot throughout this book but I love the fact that she always stayed true to herself. Although Jess lives in a superhero world, she loves to read comics about her favourite superheroes! Moreover, she asks people for pronouns because she is afraid of misgendering them. YES BOO.

I enjoyed reading about Jess' friends Bells & Emma as well. I live for their friendship! I can't believe that the next book is about Bells? I'm super duper excited about that.

Jess is shy (in an adorable way) when it comes to her crush. Let me tell you, this romance is one of the BEST. I'm not exaggerating, the cuteness level was high up to the sky. Jess & Abby did lots of things to my heart. The f/f romance & bi representation were on point. *pink nails emoji*

Seeing myself and my culture represented in this book was an indescribable feeling. It is impossible to find books with Vietnamese characters that is not about the Vietnam War. While those books are important too, I don't want to be reminded of that every time. Vietnam is more than its war. So, I'm endlessly thankful for C.B.Lee & this book. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Profile Image for Jeann (Happy Indulgence) .
1,003 reviews3,309 followers
July 25, 2018
This review was originally posted on Happy Indulgence! Check it out for more reviews.

Actual rating: 3.5 stars

I love superheroes and books with Chinese characters, so it was a no-brainer to pick up Not Your Sidekick which was also our Name of the Book Club June book of the month. Spanning a world where superpowers are common, and superheroes and villains rule the streets, the book follows a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese heroine called Jess in her quest to discover herself. Initially, Not Your Sidekick seems to be a standard superhero story about a girl who is trying to fit in, but upon unpacking the narrative – there are multiple layers at play here.

Not only does she have to cope with the struggles of being biracial, not quite fully fitting into either the Chinese or Vietnamese communities, she is also bisexual, often battling misconceptions from her classmates. Jess’s internal struggles when it came to her identity felt very real and isolating, particularly when she tells her classmate she doesn’t want to join their queer society, and when she buys her favourite Vietnamese food from the corner store. Jess also has to cope with the growing distance between her superhero sister Claudia, and her prodigy genius brother, while she doesn’t really “stand out” herself.

While most superhero narratives feature powerful heroes who save the world, it was refreshing hearing from someone who didn’t wake up with glorious powers one day. Jess didn’t inherit either of her parents powers, unlike her sister Claudia, and she just wants to hang out with her friends, work at her internship, and hang out with her crush Abby. I loved her supportive, natural friendship with the diversity in her friendship group – her friend Bells is Black transgender, and Emma is a latina. It was also adorable hearing about her crush on Abby, trying to figure out whether she was into girls as well, consulting in a mutual friend to see if she should ask her out. With their banter, easy friendship, and the way they got to know each other – it was so adorable and fluffy and I loved seeing the romance unfold.

I loved the world building of Andover, everyone knows that superheroes exist but people still go on with their everyday lives. Being a hero or villain has now become a career path in Andover, and it was interesting hearing about the system and how people could work on their talents to gain points. The hero class system was also interesting, making sure that the world wasn’t completely overpowered with their presence – from rare A class heroes who have powers that can last for ages, to B class heroes who get snapped up by the Meta-Human Training Program, and C class heroes, like Jess’s parents who have great powers but at short bursts at a time. It was interesting hearing how people were picked for Meta-Human Training, yet others with subtler powers could carry on with their daily lives.

For the most part, I loved how the story unfolded, but the writing was a bit awkward written in third person point of view in the present. Things are happening in the present, but referred to in past tense, so it was kind of awkward to read. Because there was so much happening in the book, I also felt like there were some cliched moments that felt a bit predictable, especially towards the end of the novel.

Not Your Sidekick is an adorable superhero book that tackles multiple marginalisations at once, packaged into one fine story about a girl discovering her own identity and where she fits in. I loved the intersectional diversity featured in the novel, and the adorable f/f romance in the book. Definitely a fun, cute read if you like superheroes!
Profile Image for Jenna.
110 reviews90 followers
October 17, 2016
I really wanted to give this five stars for what it was trying to do. For the most part, it succeeded. The characters are absolutely wonderful, the tone of the book is light and warm, the overall premise is quite fun. Unfortunately, there were some plot elements that didn't quite work as well as they could have.

Let's start with the good, though: Jessica Tran. I adore this protagonist. She's, 17, she claims her bisexual label, she's half-Chinese, half-Vietnamese, she wants to be accepted by both, and she doesn't feel accepted by either. She's a dork with a sarcastic tongue, middling grades, an older sister who casts a planet-sized shadow, a younger brother who's a genius, and a deep, deep, crush on the popular girl at school. The only thing Jessica really wants, though, aside from the impossibility of her crush realizing she exists, is superpowers. Superpowers like her parents have. Superpowers like her big sister has. Superpowers like she doesn't have. Gosh, I love Jessica Tran.

The supporting characters are wonderful, too, and the book's inclusivity made me happier than my dog with a popsicle. Bells, Emma, Abby, and the various villains and parents are all well-drawn (if not quite as deeply as Jess), and there's a large swath of the LGBTQIA spectrum and varous racial identities covered joyfully here. Best of all, nobody felt like a token--this was genuine representation provided by an author with her heart and mind in the right place.

If the plot had been as cohesive as the characterizations, this would've been a 5-star book without question. Sadly, none of the mysteries presented in the story were particularly mysterious; most of them were immediately obvious. There were some serious logic gaps, too. Jess was extremely bright and observant when it came to noticing details...unless the plot needed her to be oblivious, which happened on multiple occasions. And the ending. It felt largely unresolved with regard to the overall plot, and what little resolution there was felt compromised by hand-wavy author justifications.

Still. I enjoyed my time with this book. While a large portion of the YA market is currently saturated with grimdark dystopias and archetypical leads, Not Your Sidekick offers something different: it's warm and bright and funny and relatable. It respects its characters and it respects its readers. As a queer woman, this is a book that I very much wish had been available to me as a queer girl. Fortunately, there's still enough girl left in me to love it.
Profile Image for Jude in the Stars.
832 reviews448 followers
July 3, 2020
4.5* – Jess Tran is a normal teenager (insofar as teenagers can be normal). She’s not a genius like her younger brother nor does she have superpowers like her parents and older sister. She’s average. In order to prove her worth, at least to herself, she applies for an internship at Monroe Industries. Much to her surprise, she gets in, only to find out on her first day that she’ll be working for her parents’ arch enemies. With the girl she has the biggest crush on.

I liked Jess a lot. The daughter of immigrant parents – her mother was born in China, her father in Vietnam –, she lives in post-World War III Nevada. She grew up with both her parents’ cultures but struggles with the languages and, as I wrote above, is also a regular American teenage girl, who enjoys spending time with her friends – one of whom is trans and the hero of book 2, Not Your Villain – and watching forbidden movies. She accidentally outed herself as bisexual and is adorably awkward when trying to show her interest to the girl of her dreams. She’s exactly the kind of character I would have had no trouble relating to as a teenager.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Some reviewers mentioned that the story is somewhat predictable, and yes, it is, but what superhero story isn’t? Not only did it not bother me, but it made the anticipation of the reveal all the more exciting.

Not Your Sidekick is fun but also deceptively light. Beyond self-worth and first love, the real story is one of deceit and exploitation by the authorities, of manipulation of the masses through fake news. In today’s world, I wouldn’t say no to teenage superheroes fighting for truth and the right to know.
Profile Image for alexandra.
229 reviews1,510 followers
September 3, 2020
4.25/5 –

Not Your Sidekick is so fun and i had a blast reading it. there are so many wonderful elements that made me feel YESSSS – starting with a bisexual Asian MC in a world with superheroes!

my only issues with it were that it felt a little obvious and nonsensical at times. for example, the world is supposed to be set 100+ years in the future, but there were little things that made it feel as if the world hasn't developed much from how it is now. these little things made me aware and took me out of the story at times. aside from that, this was so fantastic! i can't wait to read the sequel.
Profile Image for Sabrina Grafenberger.
102 reviews19 followers
January 14, 2019
I wanted to love Not Your Sidekick so badly (and I thought I would because of the awesome premise), but in the end there were too many things that bothered me.

Let's start with what I liked about this book:

+ diverse cast (bisexual Asian American main character, lesbian love interest, trans best friend)
+ friends and family already know that the main character is bisexual and support her
+ cute f/f romance

What I didn't like:

- predictable plot twists
- repetitive writing
- unnatural dialogues
- one-dimensional villains
- lackluster ending

What annoyed me the most was how naive and clueless Jess (the main character) was most of the time. It frustrated me to no end that the reader knows what's going to happen at every stage because the plot twists are so predictable you can see them coming from a mile away, and yet Jess takes half the book to unravel a few secrets. She's missing things that are right in front of her nose and doesn't question or pick up on anything.

I don't even know why the author made all these twists so obvious. It felt as though she assumed that all of her readers are completely stupid.

The plot had a lot of potential but sadly it isn't fully fleshed out. I hope the other books in this series get better.
Profile Image for Vicky Again.
587 reviews819 followers
May 30, 2020
THIS WAS SO CUTE! I am filled with all the really wholesome goodness, and was totally rooting for Jess & Abby the whole way through. It's kind of obvious and cheesy, but in the sweetest way possible. Definitely a fun read that I'd be willing to rec to middle schoolers too!

Now I'm perfectly poised to read NOT YOUR VILLAIN as my green book in the Rainbow Readathon hehe!

Recommended by CW.
Profile Image for Sharon.
505 reviews257 followers
May 28, 2018
Here are some of my thoughts:
• Cute. Cute. Cute. It’s a chill YA book. I think the romance is better developed than the hero-villain plot. The romance is very cutesie (and I like it). And cheers for LGBTQ+ representation in this book. The plot, on the other hand, is interesting but nothing spectacular IMO. Like, it was a bit too obvious and in-your-face that . I would have liked to see Jess’s story be a bit more focused on her figuring out how she feels about herself and about the heroes/villains. I think her realizing she’s not just” sidekick” material (which points to the title) is an interesting concept and there are 2 specific scenes where we see her tackling that issue, but it needs to be visited more throughout the plot. I think the hero-villain plot seems to be approached mainly in the 1st quarter and last quarter of the book. I want to see some active developments, even though I do see that she enjoyed her internship with the “villains” in the 25-75% area. We see her enjoying her time there, but I want to see more introspection about her feelings Even though the plot could be more developed, I really did enjoy the romance and cute moments between Jess and Abby.
• I love the supportive friends. Emma and Bells are hilarious and cute. I can’t wait to see Bells’ book in the next one.
• Also, cheers for diversity~
• Overall, it’s a light-hearted read with cute characters and interesting world-building. It is read almost like a slice-of-life because Jess is mainly living through life - going to school, hanging with her friends, eating good food, going to her internship, getting to know her crush, etc. But all within a hero-villain world/background. There is a bigger plot with Jess figuring out her identity and learning about the hero-villains, but again, like what I said above, it’s not really focused too much on that or there’s not too much tension on it. The plot just flows.

I like it. I won’t say I feel in love with the characters or the plot, but I enjoyed this book, and I appreciate the representation it brings and the cute parts of it. 3 stars

Things that you might want to know (WARNING: Spoilers below)
Happy/satisfying ending?
Love triangle? Cheating? Angst level? Other things to note?
Favorite scenes?
What age level would be appropriate?

What a cute title! Seriously love stories with superheroes, so hoping this will be a good one.

Also, diversity and LGBTQ+ representation~~
Profile Image for Maëlys.
277 reviews273 followers
December 14, 2020
☆ 3.5 / 5 ☆

I had so much fun reading this book and I honestly wanted to just get through it in one seating.

Jess desperately wants to follow in her family’s footsteps once she discovers her powers and become a hero. The only problem is that no powers have manifested in her yet and it seems to be too late. She resigns herself to living a normal life and decides to find an internship while navigating school and her crush on Abby. She finds a perfect fit, ie paid, in what is a front for the town’s villains and her parents’ nemesis.

I don’t think there was anything very surprising about the plot but honestly it was such a fun adventure that it truly didn’t bother me. I think it became only irritating where a couple things dragged out a tiny bit but it was very minimal and overall felt more intentional, especially when it came to the romance and brought a lot of lightheartedness to the story.

Despite this book taking place in a world full of superheroes and supervillains, a lot of this book explores more trivial and “normal” concerns. Jess’ daily life and her relationships definitely took over the superhero plot for me and the times we saw of her doing homework or just at her internship felt more entertaining than the Heroes League of Heroes. I loved all of the friendship dynamics in this, with M at the internship, and with Bell and Emma. The cast of characters was such a highlight and a pure joy to follow through this story.

My favourite part of the entire book was definitely Jess’ and Abby’s relationship. There was a wonderful amount of yearning and awkward that slowly morphs into a friendship and maybe finally asking each other out. I thought the entire buildup was really well handled and it overall just provided me with all the serotonin.

This book definitely dives into some deeper topics too surrounding the League of Heroes, how it came to be, how Jess’s parents felt like it was their duty to be a part of it, and a look at the use of media in government propaganda. The author also places an emphasis on Jess’s bicultural identity and feelings and explored that in a very thoughtful manner.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue on with the story since I’m not very invested in the world itself but the characters are so charming that I just might!!

Profile Image for RoAnna Sylver.
Author 23 books263 followers
September 30, 2017
“It’s a secret identity thing, isn’t it?”
“You could say that.”

* * *

I love superheroes. I especially love superhero books where the writing is lively and engaging, and the marginalized rep is easy, inclusive and positive. I love Jess' drive to find herself and come into her own as a hero instead of standing in her sister's (and parents, to an extent) shadow. I love her resourcefulness and tenacity in the face of opposition and conspiracy from adults, and I love her and Abby's interactions and chemistry. (I also really love Bells, which is good news for me and everyone else!)

This story also has enough twists to keep readers guessing. I admit that I did see pretty much all of them coming, but not because the writing is predicable or slow - it's just that every reveal is *exactly what I would have written, and specifically wanted to see!* Always fun when a writer seems to be right inside your brain. It's not boring; it's satisfying in the best way.

Without spoiling, I will say that the situation - heroes versus villains - is not what it seems, leading to some surprisingly relevant commentary, from celebrity culture, political PR stunts, and the revision of history in the media and even school textbooks. Anyone paying attention to the state of the world today will find their concerns and suspicions reflected here - and because this is a superhero novel, these sometimes-insidious evils will actually be addressed.

I'm so very much looking forward to the sequel, NOT YOUR VILLAIN, which will center Bells. Can't wait to read more about him; again without spoiling, the first book sets him up very well for more adventures. I'm hoping for the same mix of real-world commentary and pointed optimism. The future seems bright!
Profile Image for Jhosy.
231 reviews1,137 followers
December 27, 2018
This is my second reading of the book.
Jess is a very captivating and human character. Her parents are superheroes and her sister is following in their footsteps. Her younger brother is a genius and she is just a normal teenager, who is not excellent at anything and has no powers.
Jess's friends, Bell and Emma are great. And I loved the bond they have together, as well as their little dramas.
Trying to find herself, Jess ends up, as an accident, involved in a great plot that threatens to deconstruct the beliefs of society, as well as having the chance to find love in the midst of all this chaos.
The story is wonderful and I can't wait to start reading the next volume!
Profile Image for kav (xreadingsolacex).
177 reviews345 followers
June 27, 2019
I have been trying to find a way to start this review for quite a few minutes now and essentially what I have to say is: 1) it took me way too long to read this incredible novel and 2) I would die for every single member of the Sidekick Squad.

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee is the first book in a series of superhero novels that follows a brilliantly-crafted group of teen main characters. In this first novel, we fellow Jessica Tran, our Chinese-Vietnamese bisexual protagonist who feels far too average in her family of superheroes, along with her two best friends Bells (trans and Black) and Emma (Latinx), both of whom are gifts to this world, and her crush, Abby.

Now let me preface this review with the following: I don't read superhero novels. I rarely read novels written in the future. Had my undying love for the author and the tons of raving from my friends existed, I probably would not have picked up this novel.

But oh my god am I so glad I did.

Not Your Sidekick is an exquisite novel. From the intriguing plot full of twists and turns to the adorable f/f romance to the hilarious and lovable main cast of characters to the intricate worldbuilding, this story was an amazing journey from start-to-finish.

Jessica Tran is an incredible main character. Her journey at the beginning of this story seems to fall into typical tropes, but Lee takes a common narrative and weaves it into a whirlwind of a story filled with extremely important underlying messages.

Jess' narrative is so necessary and vital for teens to hear. A tale of a corrupt government and "whitewashed" history, of learning to become comfortable in your own skin and believe in your own strength even if the people around you see you as average and less-than, of falling in love for the first time in an adorable and uselessly gay way - Not Your Sidekick is, at the surface, an action-packed story, but when you go deeper, it is a story of love and acceptance and courage.

C.B. Lee's novel is the kind of novel every teen deserves to read at least once, if not many more times, during these formative years.

I only regret that it took me far too long to get started on my journey with the Sidekick Squad, but I cannot wait to continue it.
Profile Image for Maf (Bookworm Wanders).
286 reviews74 followers
January 5, 2017
"I hardly think we'll ever be normal , but I heard that's overrated."

Oh my God, I am so in love with this book. I'm so happy I finally read it because it was truly the cutest thing I have ever read. I loved every single character, at first I felt so bad for Jess and just really wanted to give her a hug but eventually I realised she didn't need me hugging her because she has so many people around her who absolutely love her. I literally don't have anything else to say about this because I am still on cloud nine because of all the cute moments.

It was funny, it was sweet, it was romantic, there was action AND ADORABLE PET ROBOTS WHO MEEP AND ARE JUST ADORABLE OH MY GOD.

This book was adorable and cute and all the good things, seriously, if you are looking for a good book to start the year with, go with this one, it will make you the happiest and I CANNOT WAIT FOR BOOK TWO BECAUSE I WANT MORE ABBY AND JESS BUT ALSO BECAUSE BELLS AND EMMA WILL KILL ME I CAN FEEL IT
Profile Image for george ☽.
310 reviews188 followers
March 7, 2018
the wlw superhero story the world needs

my only slight issue is that it was really predictable and a little cheesy at times? (i'm mostly talking about some of

but i smiled the whole way through and i can't wait for the next one
Profile Image for Alex.
609 reviews66 followers
March 28, 2018
Read on my blog.

LGBTQAI+: Bisexual girl main character (#ownvoices), main f/f relationship, trans guy side character (I’m also pretty sure Emma is a-spec but it’s not mentioned in this book yet)
Sex on page: No
Note: Chinese/Vietnamese main character

Pretty much everyone I know has either read this book or is planning to read it, so here I am, officially joining the squad. (Not the sidekick squad, unfortunately, though that would be badass.)

There are never enough #ownvoices bisexual heroines, especially non-white ones, and Jess is amazing – as are all her friends. This book was fun and easy to read, although way too predictable at times, but I suppose that comes with the genre. After all, is it really a superhero novel without all those incredibly obvious secret identities that somehow nobody notices? And the main villain very conveniently detailing all their plans and secrets? I don’t think so.

Before going into this, I thought this was a contemporary/near-future setting, but turns out the story is set a couple of hundred years into the future, and in a sort of post-apocalyptic world, which was a nice surprise. I loved the little details, like driving your own car or having a pet being a luxury.

I loved laughing at the ineffective villains pulling pranks, then gradually realising that there’s so much more behind their actions. I loved how the main conspiracy was set up, and how history being rewritten and the media conveniently influencing people was focused on.

The main romance between Jess and Abby was adorable and I can’t wait to see more of them in the sequel. I also loved all of Jess’s family, especially her little brother and his totally-not-obvious crush on Bells. I am heartbroken about Jess’s sister and I’m curious to see where that relationship goes in the sequels.

I also really, really loved the recurring mentions of the Rainbow Allies club working at their school. I live in Hungary, and while I’ve heard about GSAs in the US, I’ve never heard of any here and certainly not in my city, so it’s always interesting to read about.

All in all, I think this is a really fun read if you don’t take it too seriously (because yes, some of the parts are really THAT obvious). I also have an e-copy of the sequel (Not Your Villain) which is from Bells’s POV, so I can’t wait to read that one. Hopefully next month?

My rating: 🤖🤖🤖🤖/5.
Profile Image for Natasha.
495 reviews377 followers
July 22, 2018
Not Your Sidekick was so much fun to read. There were multiple things I really liked about the book. The book definitely gave me Sky High vibes, but in a good way. It was a fun story in a world of superheroes.

To start, the world building was fantastic. The author didn't feed you too much information at once but was also able to give a clear understanding of how the world got to where it currently was. It explained how superpowers emerged excellently. I'm not someone who needs these sort of things explained, but I love seeing it when it is done well. It wasn't a thorough explanation but it was made clear how powers emerged. The new technology was also very interesting, from self driving cars to robots. However, there is still glitchy technology, which is very realistic as usually in sci-fi technology, even consumer technology, never appears to malfunction. There were also minor dystopian-like things in the book, that being banning most media before the 2030's. But it stayed realistic where people still consumed that media.

As there are superheroes, who are referred to as meta-humans, multiple things around them were included. One part was there being different classification of superheroes. This is determined by how long a meta-human can use their powers in a twenty-four hour timeframe. This element was very interesting as it gave insight on the extent of meta-human's powers. Meta-humans were also, in a way, exploited for entertainment. Comic books were written about them, there's fanclubs, and when new ones were recruited they were shown on TV and made a spectacle of. 

I loved the characters in the book too. Jess was a really great character, and a very persistent one. While she hasn't exhibited any powers, she continues to try and find out what her own are but at the time, doesn't let the absence impact her confidence. Jess is also bisexual and Chinese-Vietnamese. There were no elements of homophobia in the story and her culture is part of her life. She eats the food from her culture and she attended Chinese school. She also wasn't written as overly smart at school and pointed out how she worked hard for her grades but struggled at tests, which is something I personally related too. I also related to her having bilingual parents who didn't speak to her in their language as a baby. For Jess it was to avoid an accent, for me it was fear I'd get confused, and the small amount of bitterness that came with not being taught her parents' languages. But even then, she still attempted to speak it which I really liked seeing. 

Her friendships were also a great element. Her friends, Bells and Emma, were very fleshed clearly cared about her. One element this is shown was when she came out as bisexual, they helped put an end to questions she got. I especially really loved Bells, who is a trans guy. I loved how he constantly dyed his hair and was there a lot for Jess. 

I also loved the romance. It was adorable and I loved Abby. She is such a confident and strong character. She and Jess were honestly so cute and I love how Jess would describe the way she smelt like cinnamon. And they had so much chemistry, Abby flirting with Jess was especially cute.

There was also asking pronouns implemented. Jess asked M what their pronouns were, which were she/her. And when Abby wasn't sure of Bells', she used they/them and corrected herself to he/him when Jess told her what they were.  

There weren't many drawbacks for me. All there really was that the writing was a little simple and I guessed two twists, but that didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the book.

Overall, Not Your Sidekick is a lot of fun and I am eagerly looking forward to its sequel, Not Your Villain.

Review also posted to my blog.
Profile Image for Lia.
340 reviews93 followers
May 26, 2018
This book seems like a really cute superhero story reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet but then gay. And it is exactly that (a little less Romeo and Juliet-like though). But it is also a really badass story about corrupt governments and family and friendship with some morality mixed in. The story starts off with Jess starting an internship at what she thinks is a good organization only to realize her boss is actually a villain (and also her parents' – who are superheroes – enemy). She now has to deal with not only that new job, but also with a crush on Abby who also turns out to work there.

“Maybe Jess was caught up with these ridiculous, impossible ideas because it meant she never had to try for something real.”

The story is really predictable, and that sounds like a bad thing, but I really didn’t mind it at all. It actually might have made it even more fun, in a way. You knew what was going to happen and that things were going to be okay, and that made it just a really fun experience because you didn’t really have to worry about anything, you know? Is that weird? Probably.

This book is so diverse, it’s amazing. The main character Jess is Vietnamese-Chinese and bisexual, and her friend Bells is a transgender black boy and her other friend Emma is latina. I just adored these characters so much! In the first book you follow Jess’ perspective but in Not Your Villain Bells is the lead and in the next book that will hopefully be released soon Emma will be the lead.

“We can’t just sit on our asses and not live our lives while we’re trying to expose a corrupt government.”

A thing I liked less was the writing style, it was not bad, but it felt a bit rigid in the beginning. I actually thought I wasn’t going to like it as much because of that but after reading a bit more, I really didn’t mind it at all and it actually grew on me.

I’m giving this book 4.5 stars because it was just so much fun! I had the best time reading this book and I immediately picked up the next after I was done (that says a lot because I’m usually terrible at picking up sequels). The characters and the story were great and I can’t wait to read more about them! I really recommend picking up this book if you like books that are really easy and fun to read but do want that cute queer content 🙂

“I hardly think we’ll ever be normal , but I heard that’s overrated.”
Profile Image for emily.
41 reviews13 followers
March 31, 2018
*2.5 stars


superhero secret identity shenanigans = my literal favorite trope of all time, and the premise of this book was basically a dream come true. I'm not kidding when I say that, from the summary, this was The Book I wanted to read. I appreciated all the representation, which felt very authentic (esp asian + bi rep in jess, whose experiences I could really relate to, in a refreshing way) and the dramatic irony re: double identity scenes were cute and fun like I expected (though there were only like... 3?). jess and abby were adorable even if I thought the m/abby thing could have been resolved better. basically I'm glad these kinds of stories are being written etc etc.

but this was just... so boring. nothing was happening for the entire first half of the book, and whatever story there was just hit the usual uncreative story beats. the worldbuilding (unconvincing, full of infodumps) did nothing for me, and I didn't care about the plot because I wasn't invested in the world, so I kept skimming pages. actually I skimmed so much of the book that I almost feel bad marking this as read, though I technically did finish it. the characterization was the only aspect that even slightly interested me, but besides all the diversity (which I still really loved) it was just predictable. nothing really sold me on the story being told.

maybe my expectations were too high, or maybe I would have enjoyed this more if I'd read it a couple years ago. I can't really say it was bad, just uninteresting, and the rep gives it extra points. but I still can't give it 3 stars considering I nearly fell asleep reading this ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,248 reviews219 followers
November 3, 2016
This is a fun little superhero story with a cute romance between the bisexual main character and her female crush.

Jessica Tran is the daughter of immigrant parents who are the superheros of the town where she lives. Unfortunately, she doesn't appear to have inherited any superpowers herself. She picks up an extracurricular internship to help with her college applications, but it turns out that the internship is with the town's supervillain couple. Also, her long-time crush Abby is working there as well.

This is young YA, almost middle-grade level, although with an appreciation of gender and sexuality issues that is above that. Jess is bisexual and her friend Bells is trans and there's an awareness of the issues around these things, although there's a complete absence of any stigma associated with them. Additionally, as the author is a bisexual woman of immigrant parents, Jess's point of view feels very authentic.

Unfortunately, while there's some great work done on the characters and their issues and relationships, the world-building itself is extremely sketched in and not very self-consistent. I guess in a relatively small book there's not a lot of room for this stuff, but even what's presented doesn't make a lot of sense, particularly at the pause-point between this book and the next one.

The romance between Jess and Abby was cute, but far too drawn out. That Abby is the one in the disguise is obvious to the reader from the blurb, let alone the first few paragraphs of the ruse. It does Jess no service to have her not realize what's going on for half the book when it's really so obvious.
Profile Image for Punk.
1,498 reviews241 followers
August 15, 2018
As Jessica Tran nears her seventeenth birthday, she's starting to come to terms with the fact she doesn't have a superpower, so she decides to get a job instead, a paid internship at a local robotics company, where her crush also happens to work.

The f/f romance is cute (if you ignore the dub-con aspect), and the characters represent a variety of colors, backgrounds, and sexualities, but the world-building is inconsistent and occasionally nonsensical, and the story itself is sloppy even in the finer details, many of which should have been caught by an editor. The writing's awkward, too, with transitions and infodumps being particularly graceless, but it does improve as the book goes on.

Socially, it doesn't feel like humans have advanced much at all, and there's a distinctly modern vibe to some of the interactions. One character's praised for their use of "they" when they don't know someone's preferred pronouns, and when the main character accidentally outs herself as bisexual during English class, it's apparently shocking enough that the whole school's still talking about it weeks later. I'd like to think we'll be past that a hundred years from now, after a solar flare fries the earth, causes nuclear power plants to melt down, starts World War Three, and irradiates everyone so much people start to have superpowers. In fact, what I'd expect is a whole new strain of racism and prejudice based on those powers, but strangely, that isn't touched on at all.
Profile Image for ambsreads.
656 reviews1,403 followers
June 20, 2017
While reading Not Your Sidekick I tried to sort my thoughts into 'pros' and 'cons' lists. It was difficult to do so because this book was so good I barely wanted to switch from my iBooks app to my Notes app.

But, here we go:

- from a quick scan of reviews; this is great bisexual representation
- I believe this is an #ownvoices novel? correct me if I'm wrong
- Great characters
- Great writing
- great setting
- a trans character is featured and I believe that's also good rep
- s u p e r p o w e r s
- great characterisation
- Abby and Jess are so freaking cute like wtf?????

- in some cases I found the characters to be childish, but that was on me rather than the characters i think
- YA is written for a younger audience sometimes and in some cases I've outgrown the protagonists age and I'm like ???? was I like this 3 years ago???
- this was lowkey like a story i'm actually writing??? not that that's bad despite being in cons i'm just petty
- a tad predictable

Okay, that's all I have for now. I highly recommend this book though and suggest you pick it up, especially since it's currently pride month!
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