In this engaging middle-grade adventure, Anderson (Standard Hero Behavior) again examines the idea of heroism, this time through the lives of superpowered sidekicks. Thirteen-year-old Andrew "The Sensationalist" Bean is part of the H.E.R.O. program for aspiring sidekicks, but his mentor, the legendary Titan, is an alcoholic no-show, leaving Andrew to fend for himself against supervillains and their deathtraps. When the infamous Dealer returns from the dead and reunites his deadly henchmen, the entire city is put at risk. Adult heroes are vanishing, their sidekicks are under attack, and someone associated with H.E.R.O. may be a traitor. Amid the chaos and danger, Andrew tries to embrace his heroic potential. Anderson tackles some heady topics, including superhero morality, teenage confusion, and divided loyalties, playing with the usual comic book tropes without treading on overly familiar ground (even for fans of Jack Ferraiolo's similar 2011 novel, Sidekicks). There's a lot to enjoy, from memorable characters to a complex yet accessible plot, in this superhero story that any comics fan will enjoy. Ages 8-12. Agent: Quinlan Lee, Adams Literary. (July)[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC
Gr 4-7--With his less-than-spectacular superpowers and a partner who never shows up, Andrew finds that his life as a crime-fighting sidekick called "the Sensationalist" is fairly tame. When a mysterious villain captures most of the city's top "Supers," though, the 13-year-old has to find a way to thwart the evil plot and save the day. Andrew's self-deprecating, occasionally sarcastic narration lightly mocks superhero conventions with some fun and insight. Insecurity about his role neatly mixes in with typical middle school headaches, including teasing, romance, and school lunches. While Andrew's self-analysis drags on a bit at times, there are plenty of funny observations about the challenges superheroes face, including financial worries and outgrowing their spandex. The boy's relationships with other sidekicks, his teacher, and the retired Super who rejects him work fairly well to set up some tough personal and moral decisions. They also impact the gradually developing heroes-versus-villains plot, which includes a couple of slightly predictable twists and ends with a battle in which the sidekicks prove their worth. The action scenes are not especially involving, but the clever humor, coupled with some thoughtful exploration into the nature of friendship, courage, and heroism, makes this a solid addition to the field of superhero novels.--Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR[Page 94]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.