With Not your Backup coming out soon, we’ve listed five reasons you should add C.B. Lee’s Sidekick Squad series to your TBR. (Minor spoilers!)
Emphasizing what it’s like to be both ordinary and extraordinary in a world built upon superheroes and their talents merely scratches the surface of what you can expect to find in C.B. Lee’s Sidekick squad series.
Not Your Sidekick, the first book in the Sidekick Squad series, came out in 2016, and brought about a magnetic surge of acceptance for not only who you are within, but who you can become.
In a world where superheroes are celebrities and media is shaped around a false narrative, a group of teens not only have the truth of the Heroes League of Heroes being corrupt on their shoulders, but have to lead a small resistance group against the seemingly indestructible.
C.B. Lee packs emotional depth into her post-apocalyptic world that is rarely seen in YA. How does she do it? Empathy has a big part to play in the Sidekick Squad series, being able to connect to every character on some level whether from anxieties of not living up to expectations to finding yourself represented by either ethnicity or sexuality, it’s easy to see yourself play within the pages of this series.
Emotional connection to characters when reading is one of the most important aspects of reading, as is being able to dive into a fantasy world and losing ourselves to the story being played out in our minds. C.B. Lee weaved a story that connects us to her characters in multiple ways, of which I’ve picked five that stood out the most when recommending the Sidekick Squad series to other readers.
5 reasons to read the Sidekick Squad series
C.B., a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese American, wrote about Jessica Tran, the main character in Not Your Sidekick, who is bisexual and Chinese-Vietnamese American. To some this may not seem like a big deal, but it is. This isn’t a coming out story, nor is it a story about characters whose families immigrated to the U.S. before the solar flare, but it’s a story that just so happens to be about a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese American girl, which is powerful in and of itself. Reading books by #OWNVOICES authors resonates more, giving even more reasons to seek them out over other books in any TBR pile.
Like I already said, the main character of the first book is not only bisexual, but her romantic plotline in Not Your Sidekick isn’t about her coming out, but of her crushing on a girl in the most realistic of ways: that of a “disaster bisexual” that has nothing to do with homophobia in the slightest.
The fact that Jessica is bisexual only scratches the surface of LGBTA+ representation within the Sidekick Squad, though. Her crush, Abby, is a demisexual lesbian and is comfortable with her sexuality, which is rare to read about in not only YA, but in fiction in general.
Jessica’s best friends, Bells and Emma, are also LGBTA+. Bells, who is trans, is the main character in the second book of the Sidekick Squad series, Not Your Villain. Bells, like Jessica, has already come out to his family and friends, making his journey centered around the superhero and villain plotlines as opposed to him being trans.
Emma, who is going to be the main character in the third installment of the Sidekick Squad, Not Your Backup, which comes out next week, is aromantic asexual. Last year I wrote about four books with asexual representation, and I’m so excited that Not Your Backup will be added to the list of books with asexual main characters where the plotline isn’t only about their asexuality.
Characters are more than their sexualities, and C.B. doesn’t let you forget that throughout the entire series. Presentation doesn’t mean that a character is smacked with a label and that’s that. Representation is deeper than that, because underneath that simple label is a person who with a personality aside from said label.
I’ve already talked about Jessica Tran and how she is Chinese-Vietnamese American, but she isn’t the only diverse character ethnicity-wise within the Sidekick Squad. Bells is Black and Emma is Latinx, giving the Sidekick Squad one of the most realistically diverse friend groups in a book series.
C.B. does an amazing job when it comes to writing about each characters’ families and the subtle differences between them, whether it’s in what their families expect from each of them, to what values they hold in higher regard, and leniency when it comes to the dangers of saving the world.
Throughout the series, one thing remains constant, and that is the found family between Jessica, Abby, Bells, and Emma. They go through so much together, and even though there are rough patches, they’d do anything for each other and they trust one another with their lives. With tons of outside pressures from not only the Heroes League of Heroes, but from their families and society in general, they are there for each other. Reading about that bond brings emotional depth to the story when their lives are in peril.
Standing up against corruption
In a world where the characters go from believing what they read and see to figuring out that the world around them is corrupt and everything they’ve been fed is a lie, it takes bravery to stand up against that. When Jessica learns that she’s been interning with a villain and not a hero, she takes a step back and looks at the world around her and figures out that what the world sees as villains aren’t really, because of how media perception is skewed and fed a certain point of view.
This is topical in the real world, with propaganda and media perception being twisted in real time. There is a certain level of empathy we as readers can feel towards the Sidekick Squad as they rally with the resistance, no matter how small, to begin to right the wrongs brought about by the Heroes League of Heroes.