Not Your Villain, by C.B. Lee
Series: Sidekick Squad, Book 2
Publisher: Duet Books
Release Date: October 5, 2017
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.
People of Color
Questioning Aro/Ace Character
Non-Binary Side Characters
Lesbian Side Characters
Gay Side Characters
C.B. Lee is new to me but I am so pleased I decided to pick this one up. My only regret is that I didn’t read Not Your Sidekick first, and not because I felt I needed to, but rather, because I think I would really enjoy it. That said, I think Lee does an outstanding job of bringing the reader up to speed with the second in the series so it read well as a standalone but I fell in love with these characters so I need to know all their stories. There’s excellent characterization combined with incredible worldbuilding (I want to go to Aerial City!) and a fresh take on a superhero trope.
I fell in love with Bells and his group of friends, and there’s a good balance between the action of the superhero storyline and the quieter moments when they’re just being regular high school kids. Bells knows that his superpower isn’t everything that he is, he’s also an amazing artist, and my heart breaks for him when he feels that his crush is unrequited. They’re smart but they have hangups just like anyone else their age which is so relatable. I very much liked every character, you could really feel the love between this great group of friends.
I was blown away by the fantastic LGBTQIA+ rep and all I kept thinking while reading is how wonderful it’ll be for young readers to possibly see themselves in one of these characters. The open use of pronouns was something else I delighted in as I would love to see this become more mainstream. This, along with the inclusion of all different ethnicities was exactly what I’m looking for in a diverse book. Seriously, A+ overall.
I really liked that whenever I had a question about something, within a few pages I had my answer. This took me by surprise on several occasions when I was worried there might be a plot hole only to be relieved that that wasn’t the case. Lee does a very good job of keeping the reader questioning and thinking but then gives us the information we’re looking for.
My only complaint is that the story starts out a little slow with a mellow tone that took away from the initial excitement once the action began. So much so that it caught me off guard at first but thankfully around the 30% mark it picks up to a pace that matches the suspense of the story and it reads very quickly through to the end.
So I think it’s safe to say that I liked this book. A LOT. If YA and superheroes are your jam, then this should definitely be a winner for you as well.
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.
CB has been featured at literary events such as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Lambda Litfest’s Celebrating the Asian American LGBTQ+ Experience at the Chinese American Museum, YALLWEST and Pasadena Litfest as well as a guest at popular panels and discussions such as DragonCon’s “LGBTQIA in YA” , “BiScifi: Queer Heroes in Science Fiction and More”, “The Craft of Dystopia”, “Magic and Worldbuilding,”, WonderCon’s “Sisterhood of the Self-Sufficient,” Emerald City Comic Con’s “Diversity in Publishing,” and San Diego Comic Con’s “Super Asian America” and “Into the Fanzone!”
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.