Book Review – ‘Not Your Villain’ (#2 Sidekick Squad) by C.B. Lee

A sequel that super excels in all areas.

Not Your Villain (#2 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 307

From Goodreads:

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

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Not Your Villain’ was a fun read. A great superhero adventure with a social conscience.

I am definitely going to re-read this entire series once it has completed its release. With a diverse cast and a unique, almost Star Trek mentality on the human condition, I was engrossed from start to finish.

Where the debut ‘Not Your Sidekick’ followed Jess, in this sequel we are treated to another member of the gang…

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Our protagonist, Bells was written beautifully, a trans (F-M) protagonist was treated as a human being, never was his identification as being male brought into question. It was simply accepted and we got on with the story. I think the viewpoint on acceptance and diversity is what adds layers to the story that we don’t see enough of in YA. In reality, gender, gender identity, and sexuality should not be issues for difference, as neither should be the colour of our skin, nationality, able-bodiedness, metal agility, or how much money we earn. C.B. Lee manages to create an environment where all these prejudices are eliminated and gets on with a quirky, amazing superhero story.

The cast is dynamic, and so too is the future dystopian world where resources are scarce.

Lee’s writing style and humour shine brightly, and even with each of the characters being funny and sassy, they each have their uniqueness and all come together to form their own superhero group that rocks.

Not Your Villain (#2 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The novels so far read more like origin stories, so the plot points we get about the universe – the roles of heroes and villains, the control of the Collective, are introduced, explored slightly, and then left for further development in a later novel. So I was immediately wanting to read ‘Not Your Backup’ (this time following squad member Emma) upon finishing, because there is just so much juicy aspects left to solve.

We get a lot of character study and development in each novel, but ‘Not Your Villain’ managed to increase the complexity and stakes from the debut. We are starting to see more interaction with the cast of characters, and uncover differing factions fighting for dominance over the region.

Because of the writing style, sassy characters and punchy subject matter, I flew through this book. But because it’s largely about how Bells handles his identity, and relates to the world at large as a superhero in training, and the main over arcing plot is still continuing through for the next instalment, I can’t comment too strongly on predictability, because most of the plot points remain unsolved. Though, I found this novel refreshing and brilliant and can’t recommend it enough.

Overall feeling: I totally geeked out!!

Not Your Villain (#2 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Not Your Villain (#2 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Not Your Sidekick’ (#1 Sidekick Squad) by C.B. Lee

Comic book heroes that leap from the page.

Not Your Sidekick Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 262

From 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. 

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There is a lot of fun to be had reading this book. ‘Not Your Sidekick’ is choc-full of superheroes, has a diverse cast, and some plot twists that come out of nowhere. Learning about a dystopian earth in the future suffering affects from a solar flare, and humans presenting powers (called meta-humans) run by the government as superheroes. That’s a pretty cool premise.

The first half of the book is a little slow, but still compelling. Mixed with a lot of humour and comic book styled tales, it didn’t bore me at any point. Lee’s writing style is witty and fresh, tapping into the psyche of a sullen confused teen expertly.

If the mention of super heroes hasn’t tipped you off – I’ll tell it to you straight. Expect campy goodness. Cheese and moments that are way over the top. It comes part and parcel with this genre.

not-your-sidekick-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleOur protagonist, Jessica Tran, an Asian bisexual high school student, with just the right mix of confusion, vulnerability and sarcasm to keep me glued to the page. I did find however, due to a few things in the storyline, she can come across as a little dumb at moments – which doesn’t work well with the fact she performs well at school and her new job. I think the author needs to revise that plot point so Jessica doesn’t appear so stupid. Her anxiety over approaching her crush was spot on – I felt all the angst right along there with her. The addition to a great relationship with her parents (also meta-humans) and two best friends, was refreshing. There was no “poor me I’ve suffered so much“ going on with Jessica. She was just a regular insecure teen trying to find her place in the world.

I wanted a bit more of Jessica’s friends, Emma and Bells in the first half. For such a great relationship and how they clicked together (and their humour) I found myself wishing for more of the trio. We hardly get to know a lot about them. Here’s hoping more is uncovered in the sequel/s.

Abby was an interesting character – the supposed ‘golden girl’ in Jessica’s eyes, but at the same time being completely mysterious and aloof. That is a difficult combination to pull off. I guess I would’ve like to see a bit more conflict, have this perception Jess has of her to be challenged more. I like a transformation story arc. As this relationship was the pin that the plot revolved around, it was nice and easy… which is fine, but me likes tension in my main characters. 😉

Lee also manages to deconstruct some tropes in this novel – and rightly so, she is tackling some newish ground with her bisexual main character. It’s not widely prominent in YA and adds a freshness to the storytelling. Her perspective and switching up of stereotypical characters adds that zing that I couldn’t get enough of. It was so pleasant not to be fed those same old types of characters that dominate the YA market.

There are so many undertones in this book which are truly marvellous – but I feel it would do a disservice to discuss them in full in a review, because the book is meant to be a light-hearted, fun read. So I’ll let you garner from the book your own versions of social awareness and hidden messages.

While some aspects of the story line are so predicable it’s painful (one in particular was dragged out so long it became annoying,) others took me completely by surprise. And in a good way. It adds a lot of complexity by the end of the novel and leaves you hanging out for the next instalment. At this stage the second book ‘Not You Villain’ has a release date of 2017; let’s hope it’s in the first half of the year otherwise I may develop an ulcer… or a stalking habit… yet Miss Lee I might hunt you down and annoy the crap out of you until ‘Not Your Villain’ hits the shelves (in the nicest way possible, of course.)

Not your Sidekick’ is engaging, light hearted and has hidden depths. Definitely recommend for the aspect of diversity and the fun ride that goes a long with them.

Overall feeling: Wee!

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookporn

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Rainbow reads I purchased in October. Some steamy, some contemporary. Can’t wait to start ‘Not Your Sidekick’ – think I’ll start with that one first.

Diversity! Gay male protagonist. Bisexual protagonist. Lesbian Protagonist.