Book Review: Rise of the Sidekicks

By Charity Tober

Full disclosure: Sky High and The Incredibles are two of my favourite movies, so any superhero book will inevitably be compared to these movies!

A superhero tale for Middle Grade readers, it stars a group of sixth grade kids, with super-powers, who want to be accepted on to the side kick mentoring program run by local superheroes, the Guardians. When their town, Nexus City, is attacked by an evil villain, and the Guardians are either away or held captive, it’s up to these kids to try and save the city and everyone in it.

The story is told in the first person by 12-year-old Ethan. Ethan’s older brother, Wyatt, is already a member of the Guardians, to the great joy of their parents. Ethan, a whiz with technology, is determined to prove himself to be just as good as, if not better than, his brother. The problem is nobody rates Ethan’s super power very highly, but when Nexus City is in trouble, it’s Ethan and his friends’ chance to shine.

I liked the kids. There’s a good camaraderie between all the friends, and I liked how they joined forces with class bullies against the enemy. In general, the kids powers are standard superhero fare: super-strength, master of illusion, ability to liquify etc. Gemma’s crazy colourful clothes and hero worship for Golden Speedster made her my favourite character, although I would also have liked to have seen more of shy Alexander (master of illusions) and quiet Willow (who can control plants). Gemma’s superpower is manipulating fabric, and she regularly extends her sleeves to trip or tie up opponents, which gets put to good use in this story.

Ethan, determined to save his family, pulls the group together to take on the supervillain, who is also a technical genius and mind controller. Unfortunately I struggled to get a handle on Ethan’s superpower. It’s described as the ability ‘to take anything and turn it into some kind of invention.’ For this to be a superpower in a world where kids can turn into animals, makes themselves invisible, or conjure illusions so good they fool everyone, I expected Ethan to instantly understand how technology worked so he could disable things immediately, and that his inventions would be successful on the first attempt. Instead it was a case of trial and error, with no detail given other than fiddling with buttons when dealing with the villain’s contraptions or trying to use ‘kill code’ on computers. Ultimately this made for a disappointing finale, as I expected both Ethan and the villain to be more along the lines of Royal Pain (Sky High) or Syndrome (the Incredibles), or even more advanced (given how technology has advanced even since those movies), rather than resorting to unplugging desktop computers.

Perhaps if it had been one of the minor characters with this ability, it would not have mattered, but as it’s the strength of both the hero and the villain, it seems important to have the superpower with some substance to it. Of course, if you are new to the superhero genre or have zero knowledge of technology, this may not bother you, but TOTP and myself both wanted more.

Overall the writing is smooth, the pacing is good, the characters are likeable, the tone is light, so it’s a pity the ending is such a disappointment.

TOTP (also a Sky High fan) awards Rise of the Sidekicks six out of ten Diamonds.

18 thoughts on “Book Review: Rise of the Sidekicks

  1. This sounds like it should have been a really fun read—most of the superpowers sound pretty delightful—but it’s a shame the core superpowers of the story weren’t well-developed enough to make for a rewarding ending. Still, it was really interesting to read your thoughts—and to see your favorite superhero movies (I wasn’t familiar with Sky High until just now, but The Incredibles is always a favorite)! Thanks so much for the great review, Valinora!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The first time I clicked on your page, it came up weird. Couldn’t leave a comment. So went out and tried again. Success. I was intrigued with what you had to say about this superhero book, Rise of the Sidekicks and thought my grandson might like it. Sorry to hear the ending is disappointing. And, thanks for your honesty. Was the ending just predictable??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Patricia! The problem I had was that the hero’s superpower did not come across as a superpower, and the tech was pretty old-fashioned. He wasn’t brilliant at inventing and or solving things, the sparse details given did not make sense, and to be able to disable thousands of evil robots by unplugging a desktop computer was completely unconvincing, There wasn’t even voice controls or eye scan recognition. The author would have been better off giving him magic. Kids today are so tech savvy that I think loads would be disappointed that the hero could tap keys but I guess they could also fill in the blanks themselves and picture something more exciting. I expected the author to do that for me! 🙂


  3. You had me after stating your “full disclosures”. Even though the finale is a letdown I still hope to give this one a read during the upcoming Summer months. Thanks for your insightful review.


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