Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee – one of my most anticipated reads for 2017, and one that I have…mixed feelings about. There will be spoilers in this review.
Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.
After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?
Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.
Let’s start with the positive, shall we? As with all of C.B. Lee’s work, the characters were an absolute delight. I loved getting inside of Bells’ head, as he was one of my favourite characters in Not Your Sidekick. I adored seeing Abby and Jess again (I ship them so hard), and getting to know Emma a lot better. I’m definitely interested in seeing through her perspective in the next book in the series, Not Your Backup.
As with the first book, there’s a plethora of queer representation in particular. I am not a trans person, so I cannot speak for the representation of Bells as a trans man. I personally enjoyed that this was a small yet important aspect to his character. For example, when he shapeshifts into a female form, he expresses discomfort. This is an aspect of this particular power that I had never thought of before. In Not Your Villain Emma also expresses confusion about her sexuality, and contemplates whether she may be ace or aro. I loved having these named on the page.
Not Your Villain begins during the events of Not Your Sidekick, and that’s where my problems with the book begin. We get a short introduction to Bells and his powers, and then the book just… re-caps. I’d say the first 30% of the book is just stuff that we already know and have already seen, and I found that quite boring. I also found that the world building was quite confusing – at times I wasn’t quite sure where the characters were or why they were doing certain things. It even at times felt like the outline of a book rather than a book itself, which made me really sad. However, saying that, the last 10% of the book was just incredible. There were fight scenes and people pushing their powers and…well. It showed me what C.B. Lee can do!
In all, I have mixed thoughts. I love the characters and the representation, but I’m not so sure on the writing throughout the novel. Hopefully the next book is a little less messy in this regard.