Review of ‘The Sidekicks’

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Yesterday I spoke to Will Kostakis and you can read that interview here. His latest novel, The Sidekicks is out MONDAY and I’m incredibly fortunate to have already read it – you can pre-order it here. Like with all of Will’s books, I sobbed, I laughed, I turned pages rapidly with little regard for what I was meant to be doing IRL, and I lost sleep. All for a good cause. Oh my glory readers, just you wait. I’m calling it now…multiple shortlistings for awards around the country. Look I could have reviewed it, but I felt too emotionally attached to it and to be honest, Trish Buckley is far more qualified than I to review #OzYA. She’s a former CBCA judge, secondary TL and one of the most prolific readers of YA in the country. You can read all her reviews for me here. Thank you Miss.

Details of how to win one of three copies of ‘The Sidekicks’, thanks to Penguin Random House, are at the end of the review.

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Click on cover or title links to purchase. FREE SHIPPING CODE is ‘INDULGE’. I am utterly horrified by all that has happened to Will in the last 24 hours. Click and purchase ‘The Sidekicks’ now and get it into the bestsellers lists. It will end up there anyway as it’s the best YA book I’ve read in forever, but dang it, get it there faster people! Honestly, it’s worth the $15.95 anyway and it will be one of the best reads you’ve had in years. Click and purchase. And then read Eden Riley’s blog post here. Cause #edenriley.

Will Kostakis’s third YA novel, The Sidekicks, demonstrates his growing confidence and style. It delivers insight and emotion, proving economy is classy. Although one of the main characters, Isaac, is dead his presence is strong and real through the three other protagonists, who each narrate a third of the book. The prose is non-judgemental, challenging teenagers to think more deeply about their choices. The diverse and authentic characters will engage readers—maybe even start a twitter battle for our favourite boy. Game on!

Olympic hopeful Ryan Thompson, rebel-who-knows-a-guy Scott Harley, and second-to-dux, socially inept Miles Cooper are friends of Isaac. But not of each other. They are the sidekicks. They have nothing in common and can barely stand each other. Harley finds Ryan (who he calls ‘Thommo’) egotistical and privileged, Miles blames Harley for Isaac’s death, and Ryan is too busy hiding secrets to make time for them. As sidekicks they are each closely acquainted with Isaac, but only on the periphery of each other’s lives.

Ryan’s voice begins the novel, and through him we hear Isaac and start to know both of them. As a champion swimmer, Ryan appears controlled and focused, yet he lives a lie, only letting his guard down with Isaac. Keeping Ryan’s secret demonstrates Isaac’s loyalty, which is an anchor for the untethered Ryan. Harley’s point of view shows us a darker side of Isaac, a party-goer, a mischief maker, a flirt. Miles uses technology to keep Isaac alive, spending lunch hours reviewing raw footage of Isaac from their school-made film. While Harley’s Isaac is reckless, Miles’s Isaac is mean. Isaac teased Miles mercilessly about his reluctance to drink, and his refusal to shirk schoolwork, although the pair of them ran a brilliant scam. A small but significant cameo of Isaac’s mum, Sue, strengthens the portrayal of the dead boy. She is devastated, seeking closure for his death, searching for meaning in his memory: Charming yet flawed. A boy gone too soon. A friend and a son. This is clever writing—considering he is already dead before the book begins.

There are several poignant, not trite or clichéd, moments where Kostakis drives home very powerful messages. A teacher tells Ryan to share more of himself with more people to not ‘have all your eggs in one basket’. Sue tells Harley why she stayed up all night playing cards with Isaac the first time he comes home drunk. ‘He was on the edge of the rest of his life and I wanted to sit there with him.’ In a montage Miles imagines aspects of a possible happy future, albeit without Isaac. Teenage boy humour is presented through the whole novel, but is best reflected in a well-conceived, but poorly executed attempt to procure a piece of furniture.

By the time we reach Miles’s narrative the metaphor of sidekicks has developed. The boys’ growth makes it clear they must reject their self-perceptions as minor characters in Isaac’s life, and instead see themselves as the protagonists of their own (and each other’s) stories. It’s a strong message speaking directly to teenagers—challenging negative impulses we (as adults) try to reject—peer pressure, bullying, binge drinking, and recklessness. A contemporary book, wise and worthy, it is a welcome inclusion to the Australian young-adult world. Highly recommended.

The Giveaway: If you follow the lovely Will Kostakis on Instagram, you will know that his selfie action is strong. He makes me smile with his gym selfies and his book selfies and his Penguin Teen selfies, and that is a great thing! So in the spirit of selfies and the joy of YA literature…all you have to do to win one of three copies of ‘The Sidekicks’ is to post a selfie with a fav book on social media and hashtag it #thesidekicksselfie. I’ve even done you a collage of my examples, as you can see I am no expert.thesidekicksselfie

The Fine Print

I have received nothing in return for hosting this giveaway. My aim is just to share a darned good read with you.

How to enter

The Penguin Random House ‘The Sidekicks’ Giveaway commences at 5pm (AEDT) on 26th February 2016, and ends at 5pm (AEDT) on 5th March 2016.

Entrants are required to post a selfie with their fav book somewhere on social media and tag it #thesidekicksselfie

Terms and Conditions

Entry is open to residents of Australia only. Persons entering must be over 18 years of age.

Entry is a game of skill and chance plays no part in determining a winner, except on newsletter subscriber days.

Winners will be chosen by CBD editors from all eligible entries received.

Judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Winners will be contacted via comment function on the blog entry or Facebook status update or email address.

If a winner is unable to be contacted or does not claim their Prize within 14 days the prize will be forfeited.

In the event of forfeiture a further draw will be conducted within 14 days and a new winner will be selected.

Prizes

The Prize will be sent to the winners from Penguin Random House Australia.

Prizes are not transferable or redeemable for cash.

The titles of each book takes you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. You can also compare prices on Fishpond and Bookworld for Australian purchases.If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here. Purchases clicked through from the Children’s Books Daily site result in a small commission. Commission is used in part to maintain Children’s Books Daily and to support community groups which connect children with books.

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