When I first read the summary of Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (bisexual, biracial female protagonist in a superhero universe) I knew that this would be a book for me. Little did I know, however, that I would be discovering a new favourite YA author, as well as a group of characters that I connect with on a near-molecular level. (Including a truly fantastic trans character, Bells, who I want to marry, he is so cool).
Not Your Sidekick is a book that had me bouncing up and down on my bed for joy. I could feel the silly smile on my face as Jess, our Vietnamese-Chinese protagonist, realises that she will be interning with her longtime crush, Abby. Their interactions take on double meanings, and although I predicted the plot twist, it made me so damn happy that it was actually happening that I didn’t mind at all. (Because F/F in a SUPERHERO UNIVERSE!!)
I have read astonishingly little F/F – something which I mean to rectify RIGHT NOW – and so I hadn’t really realised how well it would resonate with me. Of course, this is also because Jess is explicitly bisexual. A huge current went through me when she baldly and proudly stated her bisexuality. I don’t think that I have ever read a young adult novel where being bi is posited as an almost purely positive experience. I wish I had read this when I was younger. I think it would have helped me a lot.
However, it is not just an LGBT+ story. The novel also discusses the pressure of being in a sister’s shadow, trying to be up to parental expectations, as well as racial tensions. One of the most important scenes in the novel is when Jess attempts to order a sandwich from her favourite restaurant in Vietnamese, only to be misunderstood by the cashier, and forced to switch to English. I am not biracial, but this is a story that I have been told many times by my friends and by people on Twitter, and I imagine that this is a scene in which a biracial reader would see themselves represented in a way that does not often happen in YA.
And now for your reading pleasure, a small Q&A with C.B. Lee!
Hello! Thank you so much for having me on your blog, I’m so happy to be here!
I’m C.B. Lee, and I’m a bisexual Asian American author from California. My current novel, Not Your Sidekick, is a lighthearted adventure that follows Jess as she takes on an internship with the town’s local supervision, and also working alongside her crush Abby.
1) Tell us about the setting. Where does this novel take place?
About a hundred years in the future, after a major solar flare ignited a gene that sparks superpowers in people. The story takes place in a region of what is recognizable as Nevada. The vivid reds and the desert itself is inspired by a real place, Red Rocks Canyon National Park, which is one of my favorite wilderness areas. I’ve always found the desert stunning, with a vibrant beauty of its own, and thought it would be fun to imagine a post apocalyptic city there.
2) Do you share any characteristics or personality traits with your main characters?
I do! When I write, I draw a lot from my experiences, my flaws, and my weaknesses. Jess has my particular background, being mixed Chinese and Vietnamese and growing up in an entirely new culture. A lot of the strangeness she feels, especially how sometimes she isn’t too Asian or not Asian enough, come from my experiences. I’m also quite insecure like Jess, but like Abby, I am sometimes over ambitious and take on too many projects.
3) Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind?
Yes! I love movie soundtracks, and have playlists organized by mood. I love action music especially Pacific Rim, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter, to name a few. I can’t listen to music with any kind of lyrics because then I get caught in the story if the song.
4) Do you have a favorite place to write?
Libraries, coffee shops, bookstores, out in the middle of nowhere in a journal in the woods or the desert. There’s a raw feel to writing in the middle of a hike that I love, and I get a lot of ideas down that way. I also l like writing in IKEA. They have cute office setups and the constant hustle of shoppers is very good for my productivity.
5) Are there any plans for a sequel?
Yes! Not Your Villain , the next in the series, will be released in 2017 with Bells as the lead as the world gets a little more complicated.
Check out everyone else’s posts, as well as the #NYSlive tag, where C.B. Lee has been answering questions!
Other places to buy Not Your Sidekick include:
TL;DR: BUY THIS BOOK