Monday, March 14, 2016

Review: The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

Title: The Sidekicks
Author: Will Kostakis
Publisher: Penguin Teen Australia
Publication Date: 29 February 2016
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

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.
(summary from Goodreads)

The Sidekicks is a story of friendship and surviving loss, written in a unique and clever style that ensures this book stands out long after it ends.

The Sidekicks is my first Will Kostakis book and it definitely won't be my last. I'm already eager to get my hands on his previous novels. And anything that comes after this! The Sidekicks is a beautiful, touching, vulnerable story. Be prepared to get choked up, if not outright cry. I shed tears. Told from the point of view of three characters, this book doesn't alternate chapters as is the usual. Instead Kostakis splits the novel into three parts. The first from Ryan, the Swimmer's, point of view; the second from Harley, the Rebel's; and the third from Miles, the Nerd's. Each starts from the moment they're told their mutual best friend, Isaac, is dead, and we learn how each boy deals with that in the following weeks. But what I loved is that each consecutive part then proceeded further than the part before. I'm not sure I'm explaining that clearly, sorry. So basically we do rehash some of the same things, but then we also get more. When I first finished Ryan's part, I admit, I felt unsatisfied with how it ended, especially when we go back in time with Harley, but Kostakis is clever and trickier than I'd realised and his writing style is surprising. It works in a subtle and engaging way. Kostakis touches on so much throughout The Sidekicks - sexuality, drugs, family, to name some - but grief and friendship drive the story. Grief is different for everyone and Kostakis really portrays the range of that emotion here. Each boy deals with it in vastly different ways, feels it differently, suffers alone and alongside others. I think this allows readers to really empathise. We might not relate wholly to each boy's coping but we're there with them and feeling it none the less. Harley's drinking his way through his grief, for example, is not something I personally related to, but still, I felt for him no less. 

I really enjoyed the concept between behind The Sidekicks - that three very, very different guys, who barely get along with each other, share the one best friend. Kostakis's portraying that is truly great. I admit, for some reason, I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. I kept imagining Isaac running from one guy to the next to hang out with them! But no, they were definitely a group and reading how that worked was fascinating - and in light of Isaac's death, quite heartbreaking. Kostakis superbly characterises between the boys. Each point of view is truly distinct with a strong voice. Ryan's point of view is kind of quiet, Harley's louder and messier, while Miles's is quite formal and a little abrupt. Each stands out stylistically from the others too, with Harley's including images of texts and Miles's including flashbacks and scene headings written is script format. The heart of The Sidekicks is the way Ryan, Harley and Miles learn to come together, to get to know one another and see in each other what Isaac saw in each of them. I really liked the burgeoning friendship between them, especially that between Harley and Miles. Isaac was much more present between the two of them and not always in the best of ways. Isaac is most certainly a fourth main character in The Sidekicks. We slowly get to know him too and it was interesting because at first he seemed like three very different people, the way each boy knew and viewed him. That's just another tick in the awesome box for Kostakis. Piecing each Isaac together to get to know the real him was fascinating. I'm kind of torn to be honest, because there's definitely sides to Isaac I really didn't like - but it was beautiful what he was for Ryan, Harley and Miles, what he ultimately did for them, and how they'll remember him. Kostakis illustrates the complexities of not just these characters but all people, and it is stunning.

Fair warning: you will not want to put The Sidekicks down and it will hurt your heart in the saddest and loveliest of ways.



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