Review Blog

Mar 18 2016

The sidekicks by Will Kostakis

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Penguin, 2016. ISBN 9780143309031
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Death, School, Same sex relationships, Friendship. When Isaac is killed, his three friends, Ryan, Miles and Harley find that with him gone, their relationship has no substance. They were Isaac's sidekicks and each must now work out their future without him. This riveting book is divided into three as each of the boys explains what Isaac and the group means to them.
The first section narrated by Ryan, shows the school machinery being put into place; grief counsellors called in, the school counsellor hovering, staff ready for the students' reactions, the principal handling the year eleven cohort at an assembly after Isaac's death. Excruciatingly real, the observation of the teachers including Ryan's mother, a staff member at the Catholic College Ryan attends is mesmerising.
But Ryan is bereft for another reason that no one else knows. Isaac was the one person who knows he is gay, the one he could rely upon to talk to, to discuss his latest love.
But after the assembly, Miles takes Ryan to Isaac's locker, asking him to get a bolt cutter. Opening the locker, Ryan sees that the red purse Miles desperately wants is full of fifty dollar notes. Money Isaac and Miles made by selling essays: another secret.
The first part, Swimmer, leaves the reader with a mass of questions around Isaac's death and Ryan's hesitant steps to coming out. Time moves slowly in the second part, Rebel, told by Harley as we are taken into his world, one that is surmounted with the footage he has taken of his three companions, footage which Ryan watches, looking for hints about what he may have revealed about himself and the Isaac he didn't know. But through his conversations we see more of what happened to Isaac before he died, and see Harley run away to his father's house out of the city leaving behind the many questions he may be asked. He supplied the drugs that night and when Isaac's mother asks him to gather some of the friends together to talk to her, he is very much afraid.
Miles is the focus of the third section, Nerd, as he continues the questions about how close he was to Isaac. He is peeved that the article in the newspaper did not mention him, and talks of Isaac as the film maker in the group. Miles retrieves the footage of the film made in the pervious year by the four, and rewinds the out takes, looking for clues about their relationship.
This is a very involved story, the plot line developing around the three sections from the three points of view makes fantastic reading as questions are posed and then partly answered as we read. All the time Isaac's voice looms large, and the reader sees all their stories dovetail together satisfactorily as they all realise how much they mean to each other, as each has done something for the other, something only a friend would do.
This is a masterful tale of coming of age with three young men at once horrified at their friend's death but also searching for who they are. The design of the plot and the up to the minute language are sure to appeal to a young adult audience.
Fran Knight

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