Monday, 26 May 2014

Review: Sidekick

Sidekick by Auralee Wallace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The author's bio at the front says that she writes "women's fiction". I'm not sure what the difference is between that and "chick lit" (presumably it's a class thing), but what it appears to be, from the perspective of someone who isn't a woman, is lighthearted fiction with the comedic snark dialed up, and a female first-person protagonist.

Also dialed up - way up - is the protagonist's ditz factor. I'm generally not in favour of plots that rely strongly on the characters being idiots, and this plot definitely does (not just the protagonist, either; her Clark Kent-like love interest and the whole of law enforcement in their city seem similarly afflicted). It's funny enough that I forgive that, and also the mediocre editing.

"All right" is still two words, according to all the style guides, "prophesy" is a verb, not a noun, and a comma always goes before any term of address (and doesn't go in a number of other places that this author thinks it should go). There are some misplaced apostrophes, some missing quotation marks, some small words like "to" occasionally omitted, "marque" as a mistake for "marquee" and "closest" for "closet", and a couple of question marks on the ends of sentences that aren't questions. Media vans, by the way, have satellite dishes, not satellites, on their roofs. This level of errors, about in the high 30s, is fairly average these days.

Making up for it are a few wonderful phrases and an overall fun tone. When she first meets her reporter love interest, we get this description: "He looked a little like the end result of a heated night of plastic passion between action figures." A retail worker is beautifully described as "Jabba the Clerk". And this: "Wasn't gumption worth more than anything else? Why would reality TV lie?"

Those are just a few of the snarky or comic moments scattered throughout. I'm not sure of the exact definition of a "screwball comedy," but I think this may well be one.

It's also a decent superhero novel. Because it's a superhero novel, the complete incompetence of the police, who are unable to catch, or even come close to catching, the very flashy and obvious villains, is possibly excusable as a trope, though it's a poor one in my view. The parallels between the reporter boyfriend and Clark Kent are amusing, though, and even if I was never particularly worried for the protagonist despite her theoretically desperate situation - it clearly wasn't the kind of book where she was actually going to be beaten up by her Russian mobster landlord - there's a creditable attempt at tension and escalation of circumstances.

Despite being published by Harlequin, the book doesn't focus on the romance, which is very much a subplot.

The ending, while wrapping up this book, leaves plenty of plates in the air, and if I happen to see the sequel I'll probably read it when I feel like a bit of light amusement.

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