The other day, I forgot my current reading book at home. This resulted in jitters and hyperventilating when I went to lunch and had no book to take with me. Chanting to myself “It’s okay, you’re in a library, there are books everywhere, it’s okay…” I went out into the children’s section and grabbed Sidekicked by John David Anderson off the shelf. The plucky kid on the cover had been calling to me for a while, and this was the perfect opportunity to answer his call.
I’m glad I did.
I really loved the Almost Super books by Marion Jensen with their tale of superpowers gone awry. Sidekicked is different. Unlike other kids who encounter radioactive materials, or mysterious bug bites that turn them into superheroes, Andrew (Drew) Bean was born with hypersensatia: the ability to see, smell, and hear things better than everyone else. For instance, he can detect and identify one grain of salt dissolved in two liters of water. This qualifies him to become a sidekick.
He is a part of the H.E.R.O. program, which trains sidekicks; basically an internship for superheroes. The problem is that his assigned superhero, Titan, is a washed up alcoholic who has no interest in running around saving people, much less his own sidekick. Drew wants his best friend Jenna, who is a borderline superhero herself, to see him as more than a friend, but then she starts cozying up to another sidekick, Gavin. Then Titan’s arch-nemesis, whom everyone thought was dead, shows up and the city is in terror, Drew is being targeted, and he no longer knows who to trust. Can he get Titan to save the day, or will he have to figure out on his own how to save himself and his friends?
Although the premise is, of course, fantasy, I really liked the reality of Drew’s problems. He can’t get an adult to do what he wants. He can’t get the girl to like him, and he can’t figure out what she really wants. He feels inferior to people who seem to have physical advantages to him. He’s just trying to keep his head above water at school and can’t talk to his parents. But Drew isn’t all angst-y about it. Sure, there’s some, but he also brings a wry humor to his situation as he tries to figure out who he is and where he fits into the scheme of things. His frustrations will ring true with many kids as they navigate the path between childhood and adulthood. And there’s a good dose of “how do you tell right from wrong?” in the book, which is handled well without giving easy answers.
Put this book into the hands of kids who like superhero fiction, good vs. evil scenarios, kids in danger, and strong male leads.