I finished reading Not Your Villain a day after putting down Not Your Sidekick, and I can honestly say that these two books have made their way in the center of my heart. I have an obvious soft spot for superhero stories, and even more so when not everything is as they seem. There’s also just something about reading from the point of view of teens determined to prove that justice always prevails in the end.
When I opened this book, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the later events of the first novel overlapped with the first few chapters. Bells is on everyone’s radar since he’s now labeled as a fugitive and a traitor by the heroes of this particular world, even if he knows he’s doing the right thing. It essentially picks up on the ending of Not Your Sidekick, but with a fresh point of view since it’s narrated by a different character, who’s just as equally loveable.
I adore the representation C.B. Lee put in this series. The first novel’s main character Jess is a bisexual Asian teen, while Bells is a trans African-Amercan man. His experience is so easy to read, and I loved that C.B. included scenes and information about his testosterone shots. Rarely do we ever get trans rep in middle grade and young adult books, and even more so their experiences with their identity. Emma being possibly asexual was also a lovely thing to read, and while I can’t comment on the accuracy of asexual and transgender rep, I’ve heard wonderful things from #ownvoices reviewers. I loved the normalization of pronouns throughout Not Your Villain, and even more so how Bells’ identity was never called into question. I love that the kids of this generation could grow up with novels like this. Casual representation is something that always warms my heart, and it’s refreshing to have these kinds of books with characters that just happen to be members of the LGBT community. Bells’ identity isn’t glossed over and even if it’s an important part of him, and everyone welcomes him for that.
Similar to the first book, the writing in Not Your Villain is equally quick to read, simple, and pleasant. I love that we get to read the last events of the first novel from Bells’ perspective since readers didn’t get to see it go down from his point of view. It provided a fresh take and also as a reminder of what happened had readers taken some time to read the second book after the first.
My only complaint would be that the pacing felt a little slow, and I felt that we could’ve gotten less of a recap at the beginning, but it didn’t affect how much I enjoyed the book.
Overall, there were so many gorgeous scenes, amazing rep, and well-written world-building. The plot sometimes felt a little bit all over the place, but that’s what makes this series so loveable. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next one about Emma. I can’t wait to see her figure her own identity out.
Title: Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad #2)
Author: C.B. Lee
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication Date: October 5, 2017
Add to Goodreads