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.