Published by Penguin Australia on February 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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The Swimmer. The Rebel. The Nerd.
All Ryan, Harley and Miles had in common was Isaac. They lived different lives, had different interests and kept different secrets. But they shared the same best friend. They were sidekicks. And now that Isaac's gone, what does that make them?
Will Kostakis, award-winning author of The First Third, perfectly depicts the pain and pleasure of this teenage world, piecing together three points of view with intricate splendour.
The Sidekicks is an incredibly honest and insightful depiction of teenage life and everything that comes with growing up. It’s a short book but it really packs a punch. This is definitely a story that everybody can connect with in some way and that’s why I think it’s important for people to read this (even Catholic school kids).
This book follows three boys who attend the same Catholic all-boys high school. As one of them proclaims in the first line of the book, they’re not actually friends. Rather, they hang out together because they share the same best friend, Isaac. When Isaac passes away, the three have no idea where they fit in or who they are. Now faced with a future without Isaac, the boys need to figure out who they were with him and who they are without him, while dealing with the grief of losing a close friend and confidante.
The book is split into three parts, each narrated by one of the three boys. It almost felt like three novellas that converged, rather than one story. We get to see each of them deal separately with the aftermath and grief of Isaac’s death, as well as reflect on their friendship with Isaac. The three perspectives were all set during the same period of time but, even though there is a little bit of overlap in some of the events that we saw, it never felt repetitive because the boys don’t cross paths that much. I also thought that each perspective brought something different and added a new dimension to the event, which made it interesting rather than repetitive.
I thoroughly enjoyed how the three stories came together as one and the tale of friendship that we got. It was a beautiful message about how they don’t need to go their separate ways just because their common link has disappeared. Their shared loss and how they can help each other through the struggles is enough to create a new bond of friendship. The things that they did for each other were so simple but impactful, and I thought The Sidekicks really highlighted what it means to be a friend. It was a really powerful and honest friendship that is completely relatable.
I enjoyed all three of the main characters in the book. They were beautifully developed and complex, and I enjoyed how different they were from each other. We have Ryan, the champion swimmer who is an Olympic hopeful and the son of the English head teacher at his school. He’s kind of the popular kid at school because of his status as the best swimmer at his school, but nobody knows that he’s secretly gay. Nobody except Isaac, and Ryan doesn’t know what to do now that he has nobody to share his fears with. There’s also Harley, the rebel who constantly skips class and has access to illegal drugs. He struggles with feelings of abandonment after his American-born mother left him and his father to return to the States and these feelings are exacerbated by Isaac’s death. Finally, there’s Miles, the second to the dux at school. He’s the nerd of the three and spends all his time studying and speaking in perfectly grammatical sentences. And of course he carries around a book with him at all times, even to parties.
I do not trust anyone who leaves home without a book. It is just not right.
I loved all three of the perspectives and I enjoyed how different their voices were. Each voice was unique and distinct, and I felt like I really got to know each character through reading from their points of view. Miles speaks and thinks with perfect grammar and he also doesn’t use contractions. Despite coming across as a very serious and studious person, he was actually quite funny. His section of the book was also filled with transcripts and had really interesting formatting, which made the reading experience really exciting. Harley, on the other hand, does not speak with perfect grammar. He constantly uses ‘should of’ instead of ‘should have’ and he makes no apologies for that. I appreciated all the fine details that went into creating distinct voices and I loved the Harley referred to his mother as ‘Mom’ rather than ‘Mum’ because she’s American-born. Ryan had probably the most traditional voice out of the three but he was my favourite perspective to read from. I really connected with his coming-out story and the fears he had about coming out to his family and his classmates at his Catholic school.
The Sidekicks was a beautifully written story about friendship and loss. It was heart-wrenching and sad at times, but also had some really great humour. Even though it’s a short book of less than 250 pages, I thought it really packed a punch. It was impactful and had lots of little messages about strength and courage. I can’t wait to read more from Will Kostakis.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thanks to Penguin Teen Australia for providing a review copy of the book!
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