Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

There are heroes and then there are HEROES.

Jack D. Ferraiolo, author of The Big Splash, which is going to the top of my reading stacks, has another winner in Sidekicks.  As my eyes were racing across the lines much like the pace of the action in the story, I kept thinking again and again---my students are going to love this book; guys and gals.  When a book's opening paragraph sets the tone as Ferraiolo does in Sidekicks, readers know that they need to hang on and hang on tight because they are in for one rushing ride.

I'm sitting on a filthy chimney, eighty stories above street level, watching from the shadows as one of my personal top five dumbest villains tries his best to wrap his mind around a hostage situation of his own creation.  His name is Rogue Warrior, and he's six feet five inches of bad skin and steroid-fueled muscles.  His hostage, an attractive woman (of course, she's attractive...it's kind of hard to get money for an ugly hostage), is going with the traditional "scream my way to freedom" attempt.  It's not going well for either of them.

The narrator is Scott Hutchinson by day a student at Harbinger Preparatory School much like the other celebrity-type teenagers attending that institution.  But by night he is Bright Boy, sidekick to Phantom Justice.  Phantom is by day Trent Clancy, the man who took Scott into his home when orphaned, providing him with every opportunity for a plus/plus to live up to his true potential. 

There are those people that have plus or super powers; speed, strength and intelligence.  Some are heroes.  Others are villains.  Most are plus/plus speed and strength or only plus intelligence.  No one knows (or admits) that anyone has all three. 

Dr. Chaotic, their arch nemesis and a plus intelligence, has escaped from prison.  They confront him with his sidekick, Monkeywrench, several times before the unthinkable happens.  Scott, Bright Boy, begins a fight early instead of adhering to the sidekick code attacking Monkeywrench.  They crash through a wall with the fight escalating to the rooftops until a weakened roof has them falling.

As they pick themselves up, they discover that Monkeywrench's mask has fallen off.  He, it would seem, is a she.  And not just any she but a student, Allison Mendes, at Scott's school.  Before Scott can stop her she has taken his mask off.  Sworn enemies, yes, but they still pledge to keep the secret of each other's identity. 

It is said that there is a fine line between hate and love.  These two sidekicks cross that line having close conversational (sometimes) encounters in the closet at school, racing, flipping and jumping across rooftops in New York City, discussions about what is good and what is evil and capturing the notice of people down in the street one evening when they kiss.  The sidekicks have moved into the spotlight.  And that is not a good thing for them or their "fathers".

Least you think this is a mushy-gushy romance, it is not.  But it is about the sheer joy of first love, trust between friends and most definitely about how appearances can be deceiving.  Evil lurks in the least likely places as does goodness.

Ferraiolo has given us a novel that reads like a comic book without the graphics; I should know as a collector of comics myself.  The action is high octane, pulse pounding and chock full of unexpected twists.  Dialogue between the teen characters is spot on filled with attitude, doubt, conviction and betrayal.  As a teenager discovering who you are presents a life full of ups and downs and if you are a superhero, those highs and lows can have drastic results. 

Do yourself a favor.  Pick up Sidekicks and get ready to laugh out loud, grip the book with tension and gasp with disbelief.  Fun has never been so good.  I am most certainly looking forward to a sequel which I hope is in the works.

Be sure to check out the book's trailer at Jack D. Ferraiolo's blog linked above.  It gives insight into the fantastic imagination of an author to be watched.

Evolution of the Sidekicks Jacket is a great blog post about the artistic changes in developing the cover for this book.  Thanks to TheHappyNappyBookseller for posting this link.

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