If you've read through my last few posts my last few posts you know I've been meaning to read THE SIDEKICKS by Will Kostakis for awhile. In my last blog post, I wrote about my expectations for the novel; how it has been recommended to me by various others, how I found its premise promising and was interested in Will Kostakis' work from the get go.
I'm pretty good at controlling my expectation levels, and though my expectations for this work were high, I didn't think I'd love it.
But I do. I really loved reading THE SIDEKICKS.
I find it difficult, at times, to write about the stuff that I really like. It’s a lot easier to be critical of things that are crappy or not your cuppa-tea; to pick and dig at their flaws. That’s not to say THE SIDEKICKS is flawless but that, like most literature, it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be ‘good’; some effervescent level of measurement that THE SIDEKICKS far surpasses.
I found SIDEKICKS to be honest, grounded and relatable. Written from the three different perspectives of three friends; SIDEKICKS gives us a front row seat to how these guys, and even those around them, dealt with with grief and loss. But even more than that; seeing how this loss of someone so important to each of them, changed them, made them kinder or braver or more open.
Ryan ‘the swimmer’, Harley ‘the rebel’ and Miles ‘the nerd’ have little in common other than Isaac, a character who we only see and experience through their eyes (a very clever choice on Kostakis’ part I have to say). Isaac, though integral to the story, is show as something almost illusory which speaks volumes for SIDEKICKS thematic exploration (in my view) into identity and friendship.
The use of labels (Swimmer, Rebel, Nerd) here I took to be a deliberate invitation to discuss and to think about this idea of identity being more fluid and multifaceted than it is often believed/written about of high school students. The contradictory crux of the novel really compelled me, that being: Harley, Miles and Ryan all striving to prove they are more than the label ascribed to them, yet holding their own preconceptions about the other guys, based on those same limiting definitions.
I also really enjoyed how Isaac in particular was 'revealed' throughout the work. Seen in one way by Ryan, another by Harley and again differently by Miles. I think it's very true to life; that our perceptions of peoples identities are constructed in the moments of our interactions and our witnessing of their interactions with others. But that's never the full story. The persons full identity. As Miles, Ryan and Harley found of Isaac, unpacking their own different memories and experiences of him with each other.
Kostakis’ depiction of Ryan, Harley and Miles in turn is spot on, each one drawn authentically, organically and almost heartbreakingly whole. I found myself getting sucked into each differently narrated section, sad to leave one guy’s perspective behind, but keen to barrel right on into the next.
For me that's the strength of this novel, its three distinct-and more than that-natural voices. I usually don't enjoy first person p.o.v- but here each section was so attuned to its narrator I barely even registered the 'I' perspective. Each voice read as unique and distinct but not in any way forced. I could easily pick up on a sense of each character through the reading of their point of view.
Miles for one, true to his label; thinks and speaks without contractions, with perfect grammar, in a serious and analytical tone, but still with bursts of humour.
Ryan who opens up the story; is more your unassuming, traditional prose, with very sweet tender moments ( my favourites being between his-at the time boyfriend-Toby and his mum). He's very internalised, very reasonable but very emotive as well.
Harley was very distinct with his slang, with short quick sentences, minimal descriptions and little changes in temporality (for instance: spelling 'Mom' instead of 'Mum' showing more subtle elements of his personality and experience).
I found myself connecting with all three of these characters and was actually rather surprised by how relatable they all felt to me, each in very different but very genuine ways.
To sum up; the story and characters are fully realised, the plot has great depth but is still really engaging. It's a quick read (I read it in only a couple hours) but it really packs a punch. Insightful, simple and even a little beautiful at times, THE SIDEKICKS is definitely a work that has climbed its way into my top favourites; highlighting a really genuine account of growth, loss and friendship.