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Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad, Book Two) Paperback – October 5, 2017
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About the Author
C.B. Lee is a bisexual writer, rock climber, and pinniped enthusiast from Southern California. A first-generation Asian American, she is passionate about working in communities of color and empowering youth to be inspired to write characters and stories of their own. Not Your Sidekick (2016) was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and Bisexual Book Award.
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- main characters that are relatable, funny, quirky and interesting in a myriad of ways
- side characters that are just as well-fleshed-out and totally merit a book of their own ;-)
- strong friendships that withstand the heaviest of shocks and tests
- crushes and relationships that feel real in all their not-so-glamourous aspects
- all kinds of superpowers
- mystery and adventure and epic showdowns and rescues
- and food descriptions that will make your mouth water
Not Your Villain was just as much of a sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-biting-your-nails kind of read as the first book in the series. I just could not put it down until I’d finished it, and oh wow, I love it to bits!
And yet, when I think of the passage that stood out the most for me, it’s not a flashy superpower moment. It’s when Bells says to someone power-hungry that his powers are not what defines him. Without them, he’d still be Bells. “I am everything in my mind and heart and what I believe in.”
That gave me chills. Beautiful.
*Sigh* I can’t wait ‘till Book 3 comes out. I so want to know what happens next!
In Not Your Sidekick, Bells and his friends discovered that the League of Heroes and the famous Captain Orion were capturing and experimenting on meta-humans. They try to warn the public, but to no avail; the Collective deletes the information as soon as they post it. And Abbie’s dad is still missing! Their parents are telling them to sit tight while they handle it… but the Sidekick Squad has plans of their own.
It took a while for me to get into Not Your Villain. At first I was confused as to whether this would be a sequel or a prequel; it starts before the beginning of Not Your Sidekick, with Bells going off to training and being inducted into the League of Heroes. It then keeps going, through the events of Not Your Sidekick from Bells’s perspective. I don’t think this was a great choice for the structure of the novel; I felt like I was getting bogged down in summary, and I think I would have been confused and off put if I was new to the series.
Luckily, after Not Your Villain gets done with backstory and recap, it does a lot better. The second half relentlessly charmed me. The characters are adorable, and the pop culture references made me smile. And how is it that C.B. Lee manages to get me invested in romantic relationships? I’m really not super into romances, and I don’t think any other author has had as high a success rate with me as she has.
And of course, I love how inclusive these books they are and how they represent so many queer identities. Bells is a trans man, which is not at all the focus of the book or his personal story line. There may be references to his dad helping him with testosterone shots or wearing a binder, but his story line is firmly focused on superpowers and the schemes of the corrupt government. I haven’t seen any trans reviewers talking about this book yet, but I didn’t notice any problems with the way Bells was portrayed.
Also, Bells’s love interest, Emma, is somewhere on the aro spectrum! I think C.B. Lee’s said she’s demiromantic? Anyway, Emma’s still figuring out labels and where she is on the ace and aro spectrum, but this is addressed in the book and the words ace and aro are even used! My little grey-aro, ace heart was happy. I can’t wait for the next book, which will focus around Emma.
On another note, I think the world building’s improved with this installment. I feel like I got a lot clearer picture of the Collective and how it operates. We also get to move outside of Andover, which really helped enlarge the picture. I think every sequel needs to expand the world in some way, and Not Your Villain certainly accomplished this.
Overall, Not Your Villain is a fun addition to this delightfully queer series. I don’t think fans of Not Your Sidekick will find anything to be disappointed about.
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.
Bells is a black transboy with the power to alter his appearance, and that of anyone or anything he touches. He’s dealing with the meta-human stuff pretty well for a kid whose parents run a black market agribusiness. Oh, and who also has a long-time crush on his best friend Emma. In the beginning he keeps his identity as “Chameleon” one of the newly inducted member of the Heroes League of Heroes. Unfortunately, Jess, who has an undetected super power recognizes that Bells has been made a pawn in the game of heroes vs. villains. Jess noticed that the “villains” that Chameleon was impersonating on a series of “training missions” all had characteristics of her good pal, Bells, and Jess reveals the bigger plot that surrounds a group of missing villains, and Captain Orion, leader of the Heroes League.
This story overlaps NOT YOUR SIDEKICK and picks up with Jess, Bells, and their other pals trying to rescue Jess’ girlfriend Abby’s parents from captivity. Abby has a super power, but she’s been given a serum by Captain Orion to negate her mechanopath abilities.
Just as Bells is getting a handle on his powers and his feelings for Emma, life gets in the way. Ema finds her own boyfriend, and Chameleon’s activity in rescuing Abby’s mom leads to him being listed as Public Enemy ! by the Heroes League. That said, he finds some comfort in pals that didn’t have strong enough powers to make it into the League–and his mission to unmask the REAL villains of this world (think grown-ups in the government) brings some results. To a degree. If nothing else, Jess’ superhero parents take their mission seriously, and superheroes and villains are uniting to defeat the actual bad guys and bring justice to those who need it.
I love the multicultural cast, and the world is beautifully rendered. All to locales jump off the page, and Bells’ plight, in life, love and activity, is a sympathetic one. I love his sweetness, and his commitment to do the right thing even when it’s really, really difficult. It seems as if Bells’ perserverance wins him both the respect and validation he sought when he hungered to be a hero, and I was happy for that. I wonder who will lead us to eventual victory in book three. It feels like Jess’ sister Claudia is a strong candidate. This is an excellent book series for teens who are identified, or questioning, in the LGBT spectrum, as the relationships are all affirming and fluid. Bells is trans, Jess is bi, but seriously dating a girl, Emma has two moms, and there are many other examples of queer life, too. This world posits that nothing is unusual about those connections, and that felt pretty super, too.
Most recent customer reviews
This was good fun! I was really looking forward to reading Bells's point of view, and it did not disappoint.Read more