Jessica Tran, Jess to her friends, wishes she could feel special, like she was something more than ordinary. After World War III superpowers have become more common and for Jess growing up in a family with two superhero parents, an even more powerful super sister, and a genius younger brother she feels like she will never measure up. When she gets selected for an internship position at the massive technology corporation she hopes that she can finally live up to the pressure she feels to be as impressive as the rest of her family. Not Your Sidekick is a story that takes the traditional idea of superheroes and focuses on someone who is growing up and trying to find their own way to feel like a hero.
High school can be tough for anyone, but for Jess she just constantly feels like a nobody. The only time she feels like anyone, besides her two close friends Emma and Bells, ever took any interest in her was when she inadvertently came out as bisexual. After that brief period she has gone back to sort of blending into the background, but her new internship leads to a new friendship with someone she has been crushing on for ages. Abby has always seemed to cool and way to amazing to approach, but when Jess starts interning with her the two girls begin to form a friendship that just might be blossoming into something more. As their connection deepens they also begin to realize there is something going on concerning superheroes and super villains that just might just might change everything.
C.B. Lee does an exceptional job of writing a young bisexual heroine, even though Jess would never call herself a hero, who is finding her own power and taking control of her own narrative. I was able to see Lee on the ClexaCon 2019 Bi+ Representation panel and I briefly chatted with her at the Interlude Press table, these moments all made me eager to delve into this book and after reading this one I know I need to read the entire series. Jess’ bisexuality isn’t a big deal, which is something that is rare in coming of age books, she is just who she is and when her friends realizes she is becoming friends with Abby they are both rooting for her. Beyond Jess, Lee includes a main character who is trans, Bells. Just like with Jess, Bells being trans is never an issue and it is presented naturally and casually. The idea of LGBTQ+ characters being the main characters without their identity being the most important element of their character is something that is so rare in mainstream media. Lee has created such complex characters and she discusses topics of race and identity in a well handled way throughout. I will also say the romance building between Abby and Jess is something that will have you rooting through them from their first interaction. You can check out Not Your Sidekick, the first in the Sidekick Squad Series today.