Sidekicks by Jack D. Ferraiolo



by Jack Ferraiolo

  • VOYA: 4Q4P M
  • Lexile Level: 620L
  • Reading level: Ages 10 and up
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; Reprint edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1419701851
  • ISBN-13: 978-1419701856

Scott Hutchinson is a normal if somewhat geeky boy at Harbinger Prepatory School.  Among the children of celebrities, politicians and all the rest of the who’s who of New York City, he really doesn’t stand out.  And that is fine with Scott because while his days are dull and lacking excitement, his nights are full of heart-pounding adventure, thrills, chills, narrow escapes and the pursuit of justice.  Scott spends his nights as Bright Boy, super sidekick to Phantom Justice.  Together they take down evil and protect the citizens of their fair city.

Scott and Trent (aka, Phantom Justice) are what was once called superheros.  Now, they are known as plus/pluses.  Science has proven that certain individuals have the ability to be pluses in three different areas– speed, strength, and intelligence.  When Trent found Scott in an orphanage, he recognized the super strength and speed as he too shared it.  Now the two train together with their butler, trainer, and all around house guru, Louis, and patrol the city for chances to defeat the powers of evil.

Scott loves being Bright Boy, and since many of the plus/pluses have faded from the public eye since the nature of their powers were revealed, being the face of justice is pretty cool.  Though invisible as Scott, he is well-known and loved as Bright Boy.  Scott may be bullied by the vile Jake, but no one messes with Bright Boy.  And then one day, tragedy strikes when the Bright Boy costume that has always identified him as a force of good works against him.  While saving a beautiful lady from harm, Bright Boy’s too tight neon yellow spandex and his burgeoning hormones combine to create a media spectacle.  Phantom Justice is appalled, Bright Boy is embarrassed, and the public is having a field day with the footage.  Suddenly being Bright Boy isn’t so great.

When their archenemy, Dr. Chaotic breaks out of jail and begins terrorizing the city with his sidekick, Monkeywrench, Scott has no time to feel sorry for himself.  There is a super intelligent to defeat!  Plus, Bright Boy and Monkeywrench have a long-standing feud and the recent media attention has given his enemy a plethora of material.  Scott funnels his frustrations into punishing Monkeywrench until the two sidekicks fall through a roof.  By a fluke, Monkeywrench’s mask is torn off, and soon, so is Scott’s.  With their identities revealed to one another, the two must find a way to exist side by side both at school and in the public’s eye while protecting their secret lives.

This novel reads like a really great graphic novel and I’d love to see it reimagined as both a graphic novel and an animated series.  The writing is crisp, the dialogue engaging, and what a story!!!  I do not want to give away anything important, but let me just say that there are quite a few misdirections, double-crosses, twists, turns and shenanigans as well as a really sweet budding romance.

Scott is a likable dweeb who really believes in his mission to save the citizens of NYC and his joy in being Bright Boy is understandable.  When he is publicly humiliated by his “wardrobe malfunction”, the reader can’t help but feel sorry for him and laugh just a little.  Louis, the one person who has always really cared for him, is really well drawn and absolutely loveable under his snarky biker image.  Phantom Justice, clearly based upon a certain husky-voiced, mysterious, dark-cape-wearing superhero is appropriately distant and hard to like.  It is in the characters of Monkeywrench and Dr. Chaotic that the author really shines, however.  He managed to create incredibly likable and relatable villains who keep the reader laughing and guessing.

Most importantly, however, this is a really great story.  Scott, orphaned by a car accident at a young age, is dealing with a lot of really complicated and emotional issues.  In addition to his public humiliation, he is also learning to have a voice of his own.  The potential exposure of his secret identity is one more weight on his shoulders that just may send him over the edge.  The identity of Monkeywrench (no, I will not spoil it though it does make it impossible to discuss the rest of the novel) is a wonderful shock to the reader, and the subsequent developments are interesting, heartfelt, and utterly unforgettable.  Best of all, the ending is perfectly set up for a sequel. *squeeee*


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