Review: The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

The SidekicksThe Sidekicks by Will Kostakis
Genre: YA Realistic
Publication Date: February 29th, 2016
Publisher: e-Penguin
 

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

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Wendy’s Review

The Sidekicks wasn’t a book that was on my radar, which is odd because I used to look hard for good books written by Australian authors.  I truly believe they drink water from a magic pool somewhere in the Outback that bestows the gift of story-telling.  Anyway, once again it was Angie who told me about this one.  She must knows my reading preferences pretty darn well by now since I ended up really liking this book a lot.  I cried!  It wasn’t the deep soul cry that other books have brought out, it was more like a both eyes slow Cry-Baby type cry, but still.  It counts.

The Sidekicks is broken down into three sections.  Each section gives you a point of view from Isaac’s best friends; Ryan, Harley, and Miles.  Isaac being the friend who’s gone, leaving the others alone.  The boys aren’t really friends without Isaac, they had only one connection and now it’s gone  I think conveying that by separating each of their voices was pretty clever.  As the three characters begin overlapping it felt like perhaps they were discovering that even without Isaac they were bound together.

I’m going to attempt to review this book as Spoiler free as possible.  Please note that my definition of a spoiler and yours could be different.  I don’t believe that each character’s past relationship with Isaac is a spoiler.  I think that what is happening presently is what should be protected for new readers.  If you disagree, you may want to bow out of reading further and just read it because I said so.  It’s good.  🙂

The Swimmer

I’m the gay one now. I don’t want them to look at me and see a rainbow, but is it any better that they look at me and see a lie?

Ryan is our first narrator.  He’s the athlete, the generally all around popular attractive jock with an ‘eight’ pack and a ‘swimmers V’-which I just found out is the name of the pronounced groin muscle, causing a v shape above the pelvis.  Anywho, his relationship with Isaac felt the healthiest.  Walking the middle line between Harley and Miles, Ryan was comfortable with going out and having a few drinks but he never went overboard.  He was able to let loose, but never lost sight of becoming an Olympic Hopeful.  He is also Gay and trying to figure out how that fits with the rest of his life.  He’s not quite out of the closet, despite having a boyfriend.  In fact, only one person in the entire world knew his secret.  His best friend.

When Ryan loses Isaac his subconscious begins pulling him toward Miles and Harley, even though he’s the first to say that the three of them are not friends.  With Isaac gone, I think that Ryan becomes the gravity that holds Miles and Harley together.  I hate to apply the phrase ‘least favorite’ to any of the characters, because I think they all served a purpose, but of the three I connected to Ryan the least.  Perhaps it’s because he was the most ‘together’ all around, which meant that there wasn’t as much for someone to grasp onto.

The Rebel

She’s broken up over losing what Mom and I have tossed away.  It’s not the same though.  Sue waited up for Zac.  Mom left.  She didn’t even offer to take me with her.

Harley is my favorite, which isn’t a surprise at all.  I’m always drawn to the darker characters.  Harley and Isaac, who he calls Zac, were very close but probably not in the best ways.  Harley was a boarder from out of town and he was into drugs and alcohol, he was usually the middle man with their supplier, and when he and Isaac got together their activities were fueled by a lot of drugs and alcohol.  Poor decisions were made that led to irreversible consequences, and now that Isaac is gone Harley blames himself even if he won’t admit it.

He comes from a broken home, as you can tell by the quote I chose, and while his father is around and clearly cares about him he also seems like he struggles with his own drinking problems.  Perhaps the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.  Surprisingly though, I thought it was Harley who wound up being the kindest of Isaac’s three friends.  He works the hardest in building the bridge between the three of them in the sweetest and most heartfelt of ways.  He was the best of them all.

The Nerd

I could listen to him forever.  I am disappointed when Isaac actually starts reciting his lines.
Last year, I had to edit out all the filler between takes.  Now, the filler is all I want.

If Harley was my favorite, than Miles and his relationship with Isaac was the one that touched me the most.  Isaac and Miles relationship was rough.  They were the least alike, with Miles refusing to drink or party and being incredibly smart and more than a little awkward.  Those differences, and the friction they caused in their friendship, has caused Miles to doubt that they were even friends in the first place.

Miles aspires to work in the film industry and wrote, produced and directed one that starred Isaac as the lead.  Now that Isaac is gone Miles has begun rewatching clips of the movie in an effort to keep his friend close to him.  Basically he’s rewatching everything that would have been on the cutting room floor.  In those moments he sees a lot of them bickering, Isaac being annoyed, teasing him… it makes the moments where things were good between them fade for Miles, like they weren’t real.  Reading about Miles remembering the best of their past, and the how it all came about is the part of the story that brought those tears to my eyes.

Isaac

Isaac – ‘You don’t win because you have the same type.  You need to have a varied group so that whatever someone throws at you you’re covered.’
Miles – ‘And what? We are your Pokemon?’
Isaac – ‘Yes.  The swimmer, the rebel and the nerd.’
Miles – ‘And what does that make you?’
Isaac – ‘The guy with the best team.’

Isaac himself was the only area of the story where things were hazy.  Even though we got three different perspectives, three different memories, of Isaac I didn’t walk away feeling like I knew his character at all.  Ryan remembers him as a good friend, someone who kept secrets and was there for each of them in his own way.  Harley remembers him as troubled, too wild, but also as the one that each of them counted on.  Miles remembers how kind Isaac was and frets about where Isaac went wrong and questions why he couldn’t save his best friend.  In all three sections we as the reader are told all these things about Isaac, but they don’t actually build a picture for us that stands on its own.

In Violent Ends, which I thought about while I read The Sidekicks, each chapter and POV was written so expertly that I remember Kirby the most vibrantly.  Each one of those characters memories, both the good and the bad, built a character that was so three dimensional that I’ve never forgotten him.  This didn’t happen in The Sidekicks.  Isaac is a cardboard cutout that we recognize as someone these boys loved, but I couldn’t tell you why they were drawn to him in the first place.  If I’m going to be frank about it, in the flashbacks and moments we did see I wasn’t impressed.  I should have been impressed.  Their perspectives should have made me grieve for Isaac too. I didn’t.  I grieved for Ryan.  I grieved for Harley.  I grieved for Miles.  I felt nothing for Isaac.  That’s the only reason this book is 4 stars.

Rating: 4 Stars = B

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Comments 2

  • This is one of my favourite books of the year. I just adored it, and I’m so glad you did too! Although you’re absolutely right, Isaac wasn’t that great of a person, from the flashbacks that we got, but our three boys were so wonderfully depicted. Funny and heartbreaking!

    • The way the three boys were so fleshed out and unique to each other was amazing. And I loved how each of their connections to Isaac was different. I just wish we had gotten a better picture of the good side and the bad side of Isaac.