by John David Anderson
Sidekicked has a serious Sky High vibe. I loved it.
Andrew Bean, as his alter ego The Sensationalist, is a member of a secret sidekick training program through his school. With other sidekicks, he trains to hone his abilities and to learn every way a sidekick should help and not hinder his hero. It talks about the little things, too, the inconveniences that arise from having to take your mask with you everywhere in case of an emergency and wearing your suit under your clothes and hiding chemical weapons in your backpack. Drew gives you the lowdown on what it's really like to be a sidekick and it's enthralling.
But Drew isn't super strong or super athletic (or athletic at all, really). He can't walk through walls and he doesn't know eighteen different forms of karate. Drew has heightened senses -he can hear a whisper from the next room even in a crowd. He can see something far away and he smells everything. Everything.
I loved Drew, but even more than that, I loved that Drew's abilities aren't what you would normally think of as 'awesome'. I also love that Drew really has to work at his powers. If he's not careful, if he doesn't focus on something, he is quickly overwhelmed by everything he hears, sees, smells, and touches. This is something he deals with throughout the book and I thought it was a great opportunity to show that you really have to work for what you want.
Drew is a great character. The story is told from his perspective and some of his lines -my gosh. One of the things I love about superhero comics are the over-the-top narrations and descriptions and Anderson nailed it. 'Arms crisscrossed in a pretzel of triumph'. Drew calls supers the 'great fuzzy comforter of justice that ordinary citizens of the world snuggle up with at night'. He's funny and clever and sarcastic and he's so entertaining. He has his issues and his moments of self-pity but what really stuck out for me -aside from his humor- is his determination. He grows through the book from a kid to a future super, and it wasn't all sherry and giggles. Another big key in Drew's development is not only his own growth, but how he learns to help others grow.
This book deals with a lot of different issues. Between the fact that Drew's super won't get off his bar stool and the most notorious villain has returned to wage war on the city, Drew's trying to work up the courage to tell his best friend he likes her before fellow sidekick Gavin steals her away and he has to keep everything secret from his parents. Kids are going to find something to relate with Drew about.
On the whole, this middle grade fiction managed to catch the essence of the superhero genre and hold me captive. I had a hard time putting it down at night.