Bells Broussard is a shapeshifter and one of the strongest and earliest to manifest his super powers. He is excited to be asked back for hero training and ultimately inclusion in the Heroes’ League of Heroes as one of the youngest members ever. He becomes the superhero Chameleon and starts taking on hero duties, even if they are not quite as “heroic” as he imagined (mostly he rescues cats and has staged fights for League publicity).
When Bells’ friends Jessica and Abby discover that the beloved hero Captain Orion is really a super baddy kidnapping and torturing other supes for their powers, and that the Heroes League is behind a huge coverup to keep it all quiet, the friends realize that they need to do something. Along with Bells’ best friend (and crush) Emma, and Jessica’s brother, the group becomes the Sidekick Squad, determined to find the Resistance and expose the coverup.
Things aren’t all easy. Their parents are trying to help rescue the endangered superheroes from Orion’s clutches, but they don’t think it is the time to take on the government or the League. The Resistance may not be quite what they thought either. And new robot technology is making it harder for them to stay ahead of those who want to shut them down (or kill them). Plus, Bells still can’t work up the nerve to tell Emma how he feels. But Bells and the gang are determined to do whatever it takes to stop the corruption, even if it risks their own lives.
Not Your Villain is the second book in C.B. Lee’s fabulous Sidekick Squad, following the wonderful Not Your Sidekick. This story starts the summer before the main action of that first book as Bells goes to hero training. Then when he returns home, we get a little bit of a recap of the climax of the first book from Bell’s POV, and then begin to move forward with the next phase of the story. So while there is enough information here you could probably figure out what is going on, this story very much picks up as part two of the series and continues the main plot thread from the first book.
Once again, Lee’s world building here is great. I loved the details of the training facility, of Bells getting his uniform and learning the ropes as a hero, and seeing all the different super powers folks have. There is so much creativity here and everything has enough detail to make it shine, but not overwhelm the reader.
I really enjoyed following along with the kids as they are now more organized and all working together. The first book focused more on Jessica and Abby uncovering details of Orion’s plot, as well as their relationship, but this one gets all the teens together working to figure out what is going on and expose it. They are clever and tough and I particularly loved the bond among them all. They care about each other and take care of one another and I loved their little squad. You have to kind of go with the fact that they are absurdly self reliant for high schoolers. I mean, their parents go off to fight the bad guys and leave them home alone for weeks (months?) at at time with no communication. That is kind of part of the fun, the idea that these kids are solving the problems that the adults can’t quite hack, but you have to just go with the fact that they are basically on their own despite their age.
From the romance end, things are not quite as front and center as in Not Your Sidekick. We know Bells has feelings for Emma right from the start, but it is mostly on the back burner until the end of the story. So this isn’t quite as much of a romance, rather more of a buddy story, but the next book is Emma’s lead so I am assuming we will get more development in that third story. As with the first book, I really appreciated the diversity here of orientation, race, and gender identity. Particularly in a young adult story, it is wonderful to see such a range of people represented and for the diversity to be so seamlessly integrated.
So this is a wonderful second installment to a delightful series. While it is YA and tame enough for even the youngest readers, it is also more than entertaining enough for adults. I really enjoyed this one and can highly recommend the series.