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, and 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.
Warnings (as mentioned in book): Some internalized shame throughout an aromantic and asexual questioning arc (examined), some sci-fi violence and offscreen non-graphic minor character deaths.
Not Your Backup picks up the story a month after the ending of Not Your Villain, with Emma organizing the Resistance, while Jess and Abby stay behind at the Villain’s Guild. She has ideas to bring down the League but not the resources. As they try to disrupt the narrative the League has been building, the introduction of new heroes in the midst is a new wrench in their ongoing plans. As the Sidekick Squad organizes itself, Emma looks into the past to figure out some solutions.
The thing I love most about this series is how different the books are in tone, and how they each highlight a different aspect of the world-building. Emma’s story is about her not being a meta-human, so while she is involved in their missions and tries to plan and lead them, she isn’t being taken seriously by some adults. Moreover, there is a current of meta-humans taking the spotlight in the fight, when there are others like her who have enough power without being powered. Her personal story arc is also about her figuring out her relationship with Bells and what her identity means for how they see it. There’s a side plot of Abby being de-powered that would have resonated well with Emma’s story arc but it wasn’t pursued, and I felt the former was being sidelined for now. There is one resolution as respect to antagonists, but yeah, it is getting a bit tiresome that they are still at the same problem throughout two books.
But lets get back to the world-building. While it is subtle, Emma fills in so much of the world with her observations and her story. There is talk about ace-spec realization, that also incorporates information about the sex ed and health class being taught to the kids. Emma’s cross-country road trip has nuggets of details about how they all view old (for them) tech, and how people’s attitudes towards the governments are different from ours, just because they don’t have access to the same kind of entertainment media as we do. The little detail of Curiosity gave me feels, in the light of what happened earlier this year. Random meetings with people show how pronouns and identities are discussed in a world where queer identities are openly accepted, while also acknowledging that discovering your identity will still be an individual journey, like in the case of Emma.
Overall, this book is wonderful addition to the Sidekick Squad universe.
Is it diverse? Main character, Emma is an ace-spec Latina, in a relationship with a black trans boy. Secondary characters include a wide variety of queer and POC characters
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Interlude Press, via Netgalley.
Previous books in the Sidekick Squad series
Releases on June 4, 2019