March 24, 2018

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The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis | SLJ Review

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redstarKOSTAKIS, Will. The Sidekicks. 288p. Harlequin Teen. Oct. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212620. POP

Gr 9 Up –When Australian high school student Isaac dies, three fellow students who each considered him his closest friend battle for individual ways forward. While this is Kostakis’s American debut, his literary polish and deep understanding of teen storytelling is compelling and nuanced from the first page. Ryan, Scott, and Miles take turns recounting the months after Isaac’s death. Each viewpoint differs, as does each voice; it is through these distinct perspectives and observations that readers find fully dynamic and authentic characters. Ryan, champion swimmer and faculty son, struggles to admit that he’s gay. Scott, school boarder and affected rebel, finds comfort in comforting Isaac’s bereaved mother and working to correct the news account of Isaac’s death. Miles, possibly on autism spectrum, harbors hours of film outtakes from a school project he shot starring Isaac. The surviving guys don’t like one another—then they find motivation to step beyond their islands and bond. In addition to the credibility of the living protagonists, the plethora of adults in their stories also ring as vivid and genuine. Scott strikes up a friendship with Isaac’s mother, which fills the gap left by the absence of a relationship with his own mom. Miles’s parents handle his rigidity with good humor. Rather than a “problem novel,” the sum of all these successful parts is a memorable experience with teens who grow to absorb tragedy and build a future on its foundation. VERDICT An excellent exploration of grief from a rising talent that belongs in all libraries serving teens.–Francisca Goldsmith, Library Ronin, Worcester, MA

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

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