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 to 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.
The Final Verdict:
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.