Hello hello, good morning, y’all!
Today, I’m super excited to be part of the blog tour for C.B. Lee’s SIDEKICK SQUAD, which was organized by the amazing CW over at The Quiet Pond!
When I signed up to be part of the tour, I decided to select the option to do a series review. Since I hadn’t yet read the first two books, I figured it would be fun! But reviewing three books for one day…ambitious, yeah? Especially when you consider that I’ve been in a reading slump since February. *lolsobs* But! I’m excited to say that I’ve managed to fulfill my obligation (yay!).
So! As part of the tour, instead of doing a single post for the series, I decided to make it an all day celebration by writing an individual review for all three books and posting them separately! This is my second post, and the next, and final, will post in a couple hours.
Feel free to leave some comments and share your own thoughts on the books! And be sure to check out the other stops on the tour–all linked at the end of the review posts!
- CW’s Tour Introduction Post on The Quiet Pond
- SIDEKICK SQUAD BLOG TOUR (Part 1): Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee
- SIDEKICK SQUAD BLOG TOUR (Part 2): Not Your Villain by CB Lee (this post!)
- SIDEKICK SQUAD BLOG TOUR (Part 3): Not Your Backup by CB Lee
Publisher: Duet Books
Release Date: October 5, 2017
Received From: Purchased through Amazon
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.
GENDER: transgender, cisgender
SEXUALITY: bisexual, questioning asexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: biromantic, questioning aromantic
TROPES: magical abilities/superpowers, superheroes & villains, height difference, friends to lovers
TAGS: young adult, fantasy, dystopian, romance, queer romance, queer characters, Black character, Vietnamese character, Chinese character, biracial character, Latinx character, POC author, Chinese author, queer author
WARNINGS: kidnapping, medical testing mention, nonconsensual medical testing mention, nonconsensual drugging, vomiting, corrupt government, needles, mental illness (panic attack, acrophobia/fear of heights), ableism, racist microaggressions (older white man calling Black teen “boy”), torture mention, hospital visit, physical injury, natural disaster, water
NOT YOUR VILLAIN is a wonderful continuation to the Sidekick Squad series!
Though I did very much enjoy this novel, it does take a slow start. Part One, or the first 35% of the novel, is more like snapshots than a consistent story stream since it’s essentially a “flashback” to the events of NOT YOUR SIDEKICK from Bells’ point-of-view. There are a few different scenes–ones that Jess wasn’t part of and thus wouldn’t have been in NYS–such as Bells’ family life, meta-human training, and a few scenes between just Bells and Emma, but otherwise, it was rehashing previously read events, which did make it drag a little bit. The story picks up a bit after that, but it’s not really until around the 65% mark, when Bells gets kidnapped, that things really start getting interesting in a way that’s different from the intrigue carried over from recently finishing NYS.
However! I did enjoy several aspects of the novel! I loved getting to see more of Bells with his parents and brothers. It was so lovely to see scenes of him with a big, close-knit, loving family. The moments between him and his brothers really resonated to real life, and I really loved reading about how much the three of them really love and want the best for each other. Also, it was incredible to see Bells’ abilities grow and get stronger! Lee brings Bells to fascinating new heights in this novel, as he develops his ability to not only change himself, but to change anything he touches. There are several stunning displays of ability made by him within the novel, and honestly, it’s really thrilling that a Black, trans, bi boy is one of the strongest meta-humans alive, with a level of power that is off the charts.
Also, I enjoyed how this book is different from NYS. NYV is lighter on the romance and angst over powers, and is more of a coming of age story. Within the novel, Bells battles not only meta-humans, but loneliness. This story is one about learning how to fit and adapt to new aspects and dynamics in your life. As it is for many of us, it’s difficult for Bells and he struggles with feeling like a fifth wheel when his friends are all paired off, as well as feeling alone and like he’s not doing enough while all their parents are off rescuing other meta-humans. Ultimately, he learns how to adapt to the changes in his life and finds his peace, both for himself and within his friend group, but it’s a journey–one that’s at the same time sad and important.
Finally, I really loved the trans rep in this novel. At first, I was hesitant about the fact that Bells, the only trans character, was the one who got the ability to shapeshift. Because while it’s something that I think many trans and nonbinary people would love to be able to do, in fiction, it’s often used as a cop-out by cis people in order not to deal with the real life struggles trans people deal with. However, in my opinion, CB Lee did a great job with the rep. I liked that while Bells sometimes uses it to shift his every day body, he doesn’t view it as a way to “fix” himself and is happy with himself. He still wears a binder and takes testosterone, and expresses that he experiences dysphoria when required to shift into a woman’s body during his missions for the League, but is more comfortable when he chooses to shift to that kind of form for himself. Additionally, I was very pleased with the way Lee handled mentions of Bells as a child–at no point are feminine terms used to describe him, the sudden growth of breasts as a younger teenager is briefly mentioned but not used to feminize him or disregard his gender, and the flashback scene to when he picked his name when he started school and met Emma was just sheer perfection and adorable. All in all, I was satisfied with the trans rep, even though, as I mentioned, I was a little nervous about it at first.
Though a bit slower than the first, I very much enjoyed this novel and getting to know the characters further! I can’t wait to read more about all of them in NOT YOUR BACKUP!
CB Lee is a Lambda Literary Award nominated writer of young adult science fiction and fantasy. Her works include the Sidekick Squad series (Duet Books), Ben 10 (Boom!) and All Out (Harper Teen). CB loves to write about queer teens, magic, superheroes, and the power of friendship. When not nationally touring as an educator, writer and activist, CB lives in Los Angeles, where she can neither confirm nor deny being a superhero. You can learn more about her and her adventures as a bisexual disaster at http://cb-lee.com.
Lee’s work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Wired Magazine, and Hypable. Lee’s first novel in the Sidekick Squad series, Not Your Sidekick was a 2017 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist in YA/Children’s Fiction and a 2017 Bisexual Book Awards Finalist in Speculative Fiction. Seven Tears at High Tide was the recipient of a Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Fantasy Romance and also a finalist for the 2016 Bisexual Book Awards in the YA and Speculative Fiction categories.
CW @ The Quiet Pond (Introduction)
Harker @ The Hermit Librarian (NYB Review + Quotes/Who Would I Be in CB’s World?)
Shari @ Colour Me Read (NYS Review + Illustration)
Fadwa @ Word Wonders (NYB Review + Aesthetic)
Ceillie @ Let’s Fox About It (NYB Review + Character Interview)
Avery @ The Book Deviant (NYB Review + Quiz)
1st June [NYB RELEASE DAY]
Rita @ Bookish Rita (NYB Review + Quiz/Aesthetic)
Laura @ Green Tea & Paperbacks (NYB Review + Creative Post)
Lili @ Utopia State of Mind (NYB Review + Handlettering)
Nicky @ Small Queer, Big Opinions (Trilogy Review)
Kait @ Kaitlyn Gosiaco (NYB Review + Author Interview/Aesthetic)
Shenwei @ READING (AS)(I)AN AMERICA (NYB Review)
Janani @ The Shrinkette (Trilogy Review)