Ever since I heard about an ongoing young adult series that’s unapologetically diverse—that featured superheroes being the villains of the story—I knew that this would be some of the most beloved books I’d come across. After reading and loving the first two novels and seeing a chance of being able to promote the third and get to read it in advance, I all but rushed to sign up for CW’s blog tour.
In C.B. Lee’s latest addition to the Sidekick Squad series, Not Your Backup, the story centers around Emma Robledo, the only one in their group who doesn’t have any superpowers. She doesn’t have Jess’ keen sense of direction, or Bells’ ability to shapeshift, but she’s every bit of a formidable fighter as they are. Perhaps even more.
Title: Not Your Backup by C.B. Lee
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Received From: NetGalley / Blog Tour
Emma Robledo has a few more responsibilities that the usual high school senior, but then again, she and her friends have left school to lead a fractured Resistance movement against a corrupt Heroes League of Heroes. Emma is the only member of a supercharged team without powers, she isn’t always taken seriously. A natural leader, Emma is determined to win this battle, and when that’s done, get back to school. As the Resistance moves to challenge the League, Emma realizes where her place is in this fight: at the front.
Not Your Backup picks up after the events of Not Your Villain, where the rest of the real heroes of the story regroup in a safe house while trying to gather more people to their cause.
Surprisingly, this book took the longest in the series for me to actually want to pick up. I felt hesitant to read it because Emma’s characterization felt flat for me in the other books—she really did feel like a backup—but after seeing the title for this, I knew I had to get my hands on NYB. Fortunately for me, it blew all my expectations out of the water and gave me a glimpse of the world of the Sidekick Squad from the point of view of a character who did not have any sort of power, in addition to her complexity. C.B. Lee’s writing is the best it’s ever been, and the world-building showed in Not Your Backup places an emphasis on that.
The writing is so beautifully simple. It’s easy and fast to read, and it flows really smoothly, while still matching the fun and light-hearted tone of the book even as it tackles heavy topics like Emma’s sexuality (aroace questioning!!!!!!!) and her feeling of being inadequate to the team just because she has no powers. Not Your Backup showed that even without any superpowers or special abilities, Emma was still irreplaceable for the team. She’s determined, passionate and fierce, and having no powers did not change any of that for her.
I can’t say much about how well the rep was done, but the fact that so many reviewers who are aromantic have said that it was close to their own experiences. This is the first book I’ve read with aroace representation, and I certainly hope it won’t be the last. There is a special scene in the book where Emma talks with Bells’ brother, about being confused with her sexuality, and while bits of the conversation sounded like it was picked up from a dictionary, I can’t deny that it wasn’t a well-written scene. As a reader, it was easy for me to see the effort that the author took to make readers across the whole spectrum welcome. Not Your Backup is a novel full of adventure, excitement, EXPLOSIONS, betrayals and especially soft moments with each character. It’s filled with character-driven moments that can make your heart clench.
I think the only issue (not that big of a deal, honestly) is the fact that the middle part just dragged. Not much happened (which really makes sense because our narrator wasn’t welcomed and was intentionally being left out) which made her a less entertaining narrator to me as a reader. There was a lot of action, yes, but it pales in comparison to what occurred in Not Your Sidekick and Not Your Villain. That being said, the political and social spheres of this book were better than ever, and I feel so so so blessed to have a book like this exist the same time I’m living.
The whole Sidekick Squad series is an amazing gift to the universe. It’s about a group of diverse individuals, all driven in their own way, working to fight a corrupt government. What more could you ask for?
Links for Not Your Backup: