Review: Sidekicked

Review: SidekickedSidekicked by John David Anderson
Published by Walden Pond Press on June 25, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Humor
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Won

With not nearly enough power comes way too much responsibility.

Andrew Bean might be a part of H.E.R.O., a secret organization for the training of superhero sidekicks, but that doesn’t mean that life is all leaping tall buildings in single bounds. First, there’s Drew’s power: Possessed of super senses – his hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell are the most powerful on the planet – he’s literally the most sensitive kid in school. There’s his superhero mentor, a former legend who now spends more time straddling barstools than he does fighting crime. And then there’s his best friend, Jenna – their friendship would be complicated enough if she weren’t able to throw a Volkswagen the length of a city block. Add in trying to keep his sidekick life a secret from everyone, including his parents, and the truth is clear: Middle school is a drag even with superpowers.

But this was all before a supervillain long thought dead returned to Justicia, superheroes began disappearing at an alarming rate, and Drew’s two identities threatened to crash head-on into each other. Drew has always found it pretty easy to separate right from wrong, good from evil. It’s what a superhero does. But what happens when that line starts to break down?

First Sentence: “Captain Marvelous sighed.”

Sidekicked had me at superheroes. I can’t get enough of them, at least so far, and the superhero books I’ve read thus far have yet to seriously let me down. Sidekicked is a great read, full of action and humor, like all the best superhero stories. Full of twists, turns, and middle school awkwardness, Sidekicked is a delightful addition to superhero fiction.

Like most superhero stories, Sidekicked takes place in a fictional city, the home to the most famous of all superheroes, Justicia. In Justicia, seeing superheroes saving the day is commonplace, much like in Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. Cops and EMTs wait for superheroes to arrive on the scene of any crime involving a villain, because they’re both outclassed and used to the aid of the heroes. These heroes are actually possessed of powers, not just rich kids with toys, though they are mostly wealthy since being a superhero is a costly venture – secret lairs aren’t free, you know.

Andrew Bean’s middle school has a secret program, one that allows him to skip gym: the Highview Environmental Revitalization Organization (They keep the trash off the streets!). Also known as H.E.R.O. Drew is one of only six kids in this special club, all of them special and all in training to one day be superheroes. Each one gets paired up as a sidekick to a hero, who can teach them the tricks of the trade, unless they refuse to meet with you like Drew’s does.

Drew’s alias is The Sensationalist, because he has super senses. All of his senses are greatly enhanced, except for touch, which is a blessing. Though these powers are fairly useful, he feels out of place with even the rest of the sidekicks, who have super strength or speed or can walk through objects. Drew wants either to be normal or to be truly exceptional, but feels trapped in the middle, not powerful enough to be a Super but too strange and nerdy to fit in with the rest of his classmates.

Drew falls into classic outsider territory. Told in first person narration, the commentary throughout the novel is hilarious. He just made me smile, like when he was working out what his catchphrase might be and said this: “‘I’m the sensationalist, and I at least smell better than you!’ Maybe I have a future as a deodorant pitchman.’ The rest of the cast is well-developed too, and it’s a nice ensemble of quirky characters. I love that Jenna is the most powerful of the sidekicks and that a female Super is the strongest hero currently in action. There’s a real emphasis on the strength in everyone and looking past the surface.

What most impressed me with Sidekicked though was actually the plot. Anderson keeps everything fast-paced, full of attacks by villains, some of which were pretty intense. At a hundred pages in, I had this awesome theory about the twists that were coming…and I was wrong. A lot of novels targeted to younger readers really telegraph the twists, but Anderson didn’t do that. Everything came together really nicely, and he surprised me with each one, even though I was watching for them. Now, I’m not saying I’m the best at anticipating twists, but I suspect the intended audience will be shocked when they reach the big reveal. I really appreciate when middle grade fiction isn’t dumbed down.

Anyone who enjoys superhero stories will most definitely want to read Sidekicked. Though a middle grade novel, John David Anderson’s Sidekicked is a story that will please children, teens and adults alike with its clever humor, vibrant cast, and action-packed plot.

Favorite Quote:

“And soon I will rule the galaxy!’
The Nullifier cocked his head to the side, perhaps rethinking his ambition. But it felt right. He had bombs. He had laser-toting robots. Things were on fire.”

18 responses to “Review: Sidekicked”

  1. This sounds so good! I love that it was able to surprise you so much, and no mention of romance *throws confetti* I like how you mention that the girl sidekick is the strongest, that is definitely kick ass. Me want this!

  2. This sounds like such a fun read, and side-kicks are cool! Great review, I am a fan of superheroes too!

  3. Amy says:

    This sounds so fun!!! I love when a book is able to surprise me too so I think I would really enjoy this one!

  4. Megan K. says:

    THAT COVER. And the first line of the blurb – ha! Drew sounds like a great protagonist, and kind of reminds me of Percy Jackson, for some reason. Must be the humor. I’m not one to read MG books, but Jenni got it right: this book sounds kickass. I might give it a go sometime!

  5. Gasp!! I HAVE to have this!! So glad you reviewed it b/c I hadn’t heard a thing about this one and it’s totally up my alley.

  6. Call me shallow but this book’s cover had me at ‘hello’. It is just too cute for words.

    In all seriousness though, this book sounds like great fun and precisely the sort of thing I would enjoy! Like you, I have a weakness for superhero stories, and I love some of the concepts you touched on this review. The idea sounds really inventive and I had to giggle at Drew’s idea for a catchphrase. With great power comes great responsibility – The responsibility to come up with a memorable line that people will be quoting for years to come! 😛

    While I often enjoy middle grade, it can have a tendency to be a little predictable and basic, and I’m excited by the idea that Sidekicked really subverted your expectations and wasn’t dumbed-down for the lowest common denominator. I was always looking for books that would challenge me when I was younger and I think Anderson’s story will appeal to a much wider audience because he writes with more than with simply children in mind. That’s quite rare for the genre aimed at this age group and makes me all the more excited to read this book.

    Thanks for the great review! It was a true pleasure to read and I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this book 🙂

    • Christina says:

      Haha, I would call you shallow, but then pot kettle and all of that.

      This one quite impressed me. I’m always thrilled when a middle grade story’s plot isn’t telegraphed to me. I mean, yeah, kids haven’t read as much, but I think they deserve intricate plots too, if not to Memento levels or something. Plus, I’ve been reading adult novels since I was in the middle grade age group, so they need a wide range of reading levels to meet their needs. Just because you’re 12 and CAN read adult books doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get to read about kids your own age too.

  7. Shelver506 says:

    Sold. Going on my TBR list right now.

  8. Micheline D says:

    Oh yay – I *just* found out about this one not long ago on Pinterest so I got excited when I saw you review it 😀 I love super-heroes so this sounds like just the kind of book I’d seriously enjoy! Especially one that has humor, action PLUS such a rich & intense plot full of surprises! Sign me up!! Thanks for the brilliant review

    • Christina says:

      I am awesome at timing. I was afraid this would let me down for some reason, but thankfully it was super fun. Hope you like it too, Micheline!

  9. It sounds too good to pass it on! 🙂 Adding it to my wishlist.

  10. Heidi says:

    I’m so pumped to read this one, and I’m extra excited after knowing that you were unable to predict the twists and turns. I love an action-packed superhero story, and I’m a sucker for just about everything WPP prints, so of course I think I’ll enjoy this one as much as you!

    • Christina says:

      Totally thought I knew what was going down and I was wrong! Defeated by a middle grade. *sighs sadly* Ooh, this was my first WPP book, I think. Happy day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge