Review: Not Your Backup

sidekick squad

Title: Not Your Backup (Sidekick Squad #3)
Author: C.B. Lee
Genres: Sci-fi, superhero
Pages: 320 pages
Publisher: Duet Books
Review Copy: Library
Availability: Available now

Summary: 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. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: I’m going to be honest with you. I’m a huge fan of the Sidekick Squad and 100% here for quality asexual and aromantic representation, so I was ready to enjoy Not Your Backup from the get-go. (You can check out previous Rich in Color reviews of the first two books in the series, Not Your Sidekick and Not Your Villain here.) I highly recommend reading the first two books in the series before reading Not Your Backup, which is the third book — first of all, because the book is that much richer and will make way more sense, and second of all, why would you ever want to deprive of yourself of all that queer superhero goodness?

Now to get into the actual book (this is NOT going to be a spoiler-free review for the series, so stop reading now if you haven’t read the first two books!): Not Your Backup raises the stakes, pitting the intrepid Sidekick Squad against well, the entire corrupt government and the faux heroes running the show. It’s Emma’s turn to star in a book, and her perspective as a superhero mastermind — albeit one without any of the superhero powers — is a refreshing one. The world has expanded far beyond the scope of the town of Andover, the setting of the first book, and it shows.

All the worldbuilding, challenges of running a resistance against a government hell-bent on deceiving the populace and threatening your loved ones, and superhero awesomeness are present in this book, and I loved it.

But that isn’t what stood out to me. What stood out to me was, you guessed it, the ace/aro rep. I can count on my hand the number of YA books that include aromantic and asexual characters, and to be honest, they didn’t resonate with me — sometimes, they were even wildly offputting and vaguely problematic. That being said, Not Your Backup explores Emma’s journey exploring her ace/aro identity, and it’s the most relatable thing I’ve read to date when it comes to my own ace experiences. The representation is nuanced, integral to the story, and there’s a second (!!) character Emma talks to about being ace.

Not Your Backup portraying multiple characters on the ace/aro spectrum is so powerful, considering that too often, representation often comes in a lonely, solo package. It’s nice when a book not only tells you that you exist, but that you’re not alone.

For the representation alone, I would recommend this book to just about everyone, but on top of that, it’s just a really fun superhero romp with higher stakes then ever. If you’re into the Sidekick Squad series, this is a must-read. If you haven’t read the prior two books, this is your chance to get on it! And I’m beyond excited that there is a fourth book coming — I was foolishly under the impression it was a trilogy (and possibly have said as much in previous reviews), and I am delighted to be wrong. Get this book now!

Recommendation: Buy it now!