Review: Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

not your sidekickRating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

Jessica Tran has finally accepted that she is never going to have super powers. Both her parents are heroes with abilities like flight and super strength. And her older sister manifested her powers at age 15 and is now hero too. Even Jessica’s little brother is special as he is super smart and got into college as just a kid. But Jessica is almost 17 and it is pretty clear that if she doesn’t have any powers yet, they aren’t coming. And that is going to keep her being a nobody. Jessica has her best friends Bells and Emma, but other than that, she mostly keeps to herself and isn’t particularly special. No one really notices her and she definitely feels under the weight of her siblings’ shadow. And her crush, Abby, doesn’t even know who Jessica is.

When Jessica decides to get an internship, she is surprised to be hired by Monroe Industries. The company is a technology leader and she can’t imagine why their experimental division wants to hire a high schooler with no experience, but she takes the job. It is even better because Abby works there as well, along with the mysterious M. When Jessica learns more about the division, she realizes this is a chance to have a little fun, and maybe rebel against her parents a bit. And the longer she works there, the closer she and Abby get, becoming good friends.

challenge month 2016Things seem to be going well, but soon it becomes clear that all isn’t as it seems. Jessica learns more about the history of heroes and villains, and things that she has always believed to be true now seem much more suspect. The people she always thought of as the good guys may not actually all be on the right side, and the so-called villains may be more innocent than they seem. As Jessica and Abby work to find the truth, they gain the attention of people who want to keep their secrets hidden. The girls are determined to find out what is really going on, but their digging is putting them in danger.

I heard great things about this story, so when choosing a book for Genre Week for our Reading Challenge Month, I decided this would be a good choice. The book is not only young adult, but lesbian romance as well. While I do read and review both, they are not my regular go to genres, so this seemed like a great chance to push my boundaries a little. And boy, am I glad I did because this one was fabulous!

Author C.B. Lee has created a wonderful world here, kind of a post-apocalyptic/futuristic mashup. The world was hit by solar flares that caused major havoc and left the national boundaries changed, as well as many cities and towns decimated. At the same time, the flares activated a gene that created meta humans, people with super powers. It has been years since the disaster, and things are slowly settling back down. Now there are villains and the heroes who work to stop them. Jessica’s parents are two of those heroes, though nobody knows, as they keep their identities hidden. There is also a science fiction element here as this is set in a future with self driving cars, personal electronic wrist bands, and robots that do housework. Lee does a wonderful job with the world building here, both from the superhero and the technology end. It is creative and well developed and unfolds in a way that never feels like info dump, but also doesn’t leave you waiting to understand what is going on.

I loved Jessica and the story is told from her POV. She is a great kid, but mostly an ordinary one. She has superhero parents and overachieving siblings and she is stuck in the middle. So taking this job is a tiny bit of rebellion on her part, but she also really likes it. She enjoys working with Abby, but she also likes the work and the longer she is there, the more she begins to learn. Jessica is a pretty typical teen, and she actually is quite a bit more awesome than she recognizes. So part of this story is seeing her slowly gain confidence and learn that she has a lot of strength and talent.

This is a young adult story, so we also get a sweet romance between Jessica and Abby. At first, Jessica can barely talk to Abby without stammering, but soon they grow to be friends. It still takes a while for Jessica to work up the nerve to ask Abby out, and she is adorably awkward and insecure at first. Things are pretty chaste here with only a few kisses, but Lee conveys the feelings between these girls really well. This is definitely a story that worked for me as a superhero loving geeky adult, but also would be fitting for even the younger tweens as there is no sex, no bad language I can recall, and no major violence (though there are a threatening couple of scenes where the girls are in danger). There are also some nice secondary characters in Jessica’s best friends Emma and Bells, as well as a lot of diversity overall, both racially and on the GBLT spectrum.

So I found this story a lot of fun. The superhero element was great, the world building was excellently done, and the themes of young love and learning confidence and acceptance of yourself were nicely handled. This is the first of a series, and while the arc wraps up here, it is clear there is more to come for Jessica and Abby and I can’t wait to follow along.

This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for Genre Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from Less Than Three Press. Three lucky winners will each receive a selection of print books. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Genre Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!

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  1. That sounds like a great book! I love YA novels and have read many of them but not one book about superheros. So maybe I should read this one.

  2. This sounds like an entertaining book that I’d like to read. I also would like a robot that does housework; where do I sign up for that?

  3. The world-building sounds fantastic and fun!

  4. I don’t tend to read YA or f/f that often – but this book sounds like so much fun I think it’s probably time to try something new!

  5. Both genres are not my favorite either, Jay. But I did read F/F romances for your challenge … and I will keep my eyes on this one. Still unsure about the YA part, but hey, we do need to get out of our reading comfort zone sometimes. Thanks for the review.

  6. This one sounds like fun!  I don’t normally read f/f, but I do love YA and the post-apocalyptic/futuristic mashup aspect is intriguing.  So, might be a good book to expand my horizons.  Also, just love that cover.

    Thanks for the great review.

    • Yes, I think if you enjoy YA and the futuristic/apocalyptic side of things, you will love this one. Since things are very chaste, I think it is an easy “gateway” book in f/f romance

  7. I really haven’t read much YA, but I read one for last weeks challenge and really enjoyed it. YA might be a good way for me to dip my toes in the f/f water. This one really does sound like fun and every once in a while I just want a little fun. 🙂

    • Yes, I think this can be a good “starter” f/f because although there is romance, things are kept at the sweet level and I think anyone can relate to those feelings of a first crush as depicted here

  8. The premise sounds so interesting. The F/F is throwing me off a little but no matter I think I’ll give it a read when I have more chance. I’ve added it to my wishlist.

  9. I’ve heard great things about this book. I’m going to have to give it a try even though YA isn’t something I read much of. Thanks for the thorough review!

  10. I must recognise when I read about this one I thought it was not for me…. It is F/F (not my favourite) and young adult, told from the point of view of a teenager (I tend to find them tiresome). But after reading your review, I think I may have been mistaken. I’m intrigued now. I think it can be fun. Thank you for bringing this one to notice, Jay!

  11. Purple Reader says:

    Nice review. I love glbtq YA stories, and this one looks like it captures that well.

  12. I’m so glad this was a great read for you, Jay! I have this one, and I’m looking forward to reading it because of all the great things people have been saying about it. It’s nice to see another confirmation of that. I’m such a fan of “supers” stories in YA and adult fiction that I love seeing more people learn about what’s out there.

  13. Neither genres are faves of mine but I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for your review.

  14. Great review Jay! I read–and loved–it too! That sequel can’t come fast enough!

    V 🙂

  15. Again so nice to see the review of a f/f book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one 🙂

  16. I’ve had this one on my wishlist since it came out. So glad to hear it’s as awesome as I’d hoped!

  17. I’m glad it is as good as it sounds. I’m totally bumping it up my list.

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