“No one died, so it was a big improvement on my morning.” Will Kostakis, The Sidekicks
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.
The Sidekicks is set in Northern Sydney and revolves around three friends, Ryan, Harley and Miles whose good friend Isaac just died. The thing with these three is that they are not friends with each other – but they were each close friends with Isaac. In fact, they really don’t like each other at all, and the couldn’t be more different from one another. The only thing they have in common is their grief over Isaac’s death.
So the book is broken down into three sections, each told from a different boy’s perspective. The three sections are named “The Swimmer” which is told from Ryan’s point of view, “The Rebel” which is told from Harley’s point of view, and “The Nerd” which is told from Miles’s point of view.
Each section starts out with the boy being called to the school deputy’s office — Miss Evan’s where they are told the news: Their friend Isaac was killed when he dove into the water at a party and hit his head on the boat.
What follows is an exposition of each boy’s reflections and flashbacks about their relationship to Isaac and their relationship to each other.
I enjoyed the fact that each section built upon the previous section, so we saw a progression as we moved from one character’s point of view to the other. Though there was some repetition of events, we were able to revisit it through the unique perspective of the new character.
I also loved how relatable the characters were. They were so human and so real, complete with flaws, self-doubt, personal struggles and personality clashes which lent a strong realism to the story. I also liked how Isaac’s death affected each one of them differently, illustrating how grief affects all of us in different ways. This was apparent in the depiction of the different emotions each of the three experienced in the days following Isaac’s passing. I also was impressed by how distinct and unique each character’s voice and personality was. Each section had a markedly different writing style based on the character’s personality.
While the book does deal with heavy subject matter, there were also plenty of humous moments in the book, many of which made me laugh out loud. It also stressed the importance of family relationships and friendships, and both were wonderfully portrayed. In so many YA book, the parents are either absent or despised by the characters, which was not the case here. The relationships between the boy and their parents are positively portrayed and were present figures in the boys’ lives.
The ending was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes as the three boys discovered the threads that tied them together, finally realizing that with some endings come new beginnings. In this way, it wasn’t only about grief, but it was also about acceptance.
One thing that struck me was how the book moved away from stereotypes often found in gay-themed novels. I liked that fact that it wasn’t the uppity, snitty, overly-particular, sports-hating character who was gay, but rather the Olympic hopeful jock.
Initially, I found the story a bit confusing and slow moving. To be truthful, there isn’t a lot of action in the book – it’s definitely a character driven story as we delve deep into each character’s head as they revisit their friendship with Issac.
I also found certain parts of Mile’s section challenging to get through as it consisted of bits of dialog from a film that he was revisiting – a film in which Isaac was starring. Though it was jarring at times, these sections did end up being poignant and relevant to Miles’s growth as a character.
At first, I found it somewhat off-putting that there were no chapters in the book. As I mentioned, it’s divided into three sections. They are several sections breaks which provided stopping points which I eventually got used to.
This is a gem of a book, and I ended up loving it and all three characters. This novel is an excellent exploration of grief, resulting in each character’s growth by the end of the book as they reexamined the boxes into which they placed themselves and each other. I also felt that it was an excellent portrayal of teenage life.
This was a heavy-hitting book, that was both heart-wrenching yet uplifting at the same time and may make you cry throughout the story, especially during the end which in my opinion, was absolutely beautiful. It’s a bittersweet story that I’m guessing will stay with me for a long time. I’m giving it 4.5 stars. Recommended!
This review was transcribed my video review of this book on YouTube.