Monday, November 19, 2012


I’m re-reading City of Bones now, mainly so that I can picture the MCs as I please one last time before I see the movie next summer. And after seeing Jamie Campbell Bower’s over-the-top vampiric glaring in Breaking Dawn 2, I’m definitely going to finish re-reading the series.

In both these series, the sidekick gets the supernatural short end of the stick, and I realized that almost always happens in these epic YA stories. Poor Jacob, whose fate I have lamented before, ends up imprinting on a tiny baby (in the case of the film, a creepy CG baby—but kudos to Taylor Lautner for keeping the creep factor to a minimum here. Give that boy some kind of award). But if you think about it, the only reason Jacob even had to turn into a werewolf in the first place was because he was hanging out near Bella. Her torrid love affair with Edward is what kept the bad (non-vegetarian) vampires from just passing through. If James hadn’t caught a whiff of old Bella, poor Jake would never have had to figure out what to buy his ten-year-old girlfriend for Christmas.

Clary’s BF, Simon, also gets the shaft when he gets bitten and turns into a depressed vampire. That poor schmuck would never have been messed up in the supernatural world if he hadn’t been besties with a Shadowhunter. Not that Clary knew what she was—in another common trope, the bel inconnu, Clary only thought she was a regular girl—her special secret identity was hidden from her until that fateful first day at Pandemonium.

A lot of these series have both these character archetypes: in The Vampire Diaries, Elena thought she was a regular girl, albeit one who had a thing for vampires, but, no, wait, she’s a Doppelganger! And her best friend also gets drafted into the supernatural game—Bonnie’s a witch—who knew? In Elena’s case, her other bff becomes a vamp, her brother’s now a vampire hunter, and she’s even a vamp herself.  

The witch-best friend has been done before on Buffy, of course (and Buffy is a perfect example of the regular girl—not really! theme). The Scooby gang also got supernaturalized: everyone but Xander was a witch or a werewolf, ex-demon or Key. Eventually the writers started to give Xander the power to “see”—but it didn’t last...(see heartbreaking Nathan Fillion eye-gouging scene!)

These poor sidekicks always get sucked in, sooner or later. They are the ones we readers identify with. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been specially chosen for anything much—and I’m pretty sure I have no latent magical gifts. But the Simons and the Xanders are my way in to the story. Like Simon, I’d be listening to Jace describe Shadowhunters and portals and runes and going, “What?” But, once they’ve served that purpose for us, given us our way in, they do tend to get sucked in to the supernatural craziness. Sometimes it’s so they can help out, sometimes it gives them a reason to keep hanging around the madness.

 So here’s to the sidekicks—the ones who aren’t chosen for anything special, who are never the coolest person in the room, but they show up anyway. They follow their friends into the fray, and sometimes they don’t make it out in one piece. It’s hard to be chosen—but it seems to me it’s even harder to be the chosen one’s best friend.


  1. Yeah, you've got to love the poor sidekicks. But really, how many people pick Luke, Harry, Frodo, Bella, Katniss, or even Buffy as their favorite characters? The sidekicks are often more fun.

    Comic books would be a big exception of course. Poor, poor Robin.

    And I have always had a soft spot for the powerless characters who bravely march into (or get dragged into) the supernatural fray.

    That was part of the inspiration behind my book about a group of teens with non-supernatural talents who find themselves in a secret world of magic, monsters, and mad scientists.

    Shameless Plug time:

    Often, the chosen one is pretty overrated anyway and it is his or her friends that do the heavy lifting while the chosen one gets the glory.

  2. I think you're right about the favorites thing. A lot of folks enjoy picking the less-obvious choice as their favorite (growing up, my iconoclastic little brother's fave from Star Wars was Boba Fett!) I think that's part of the appeal with especially fantasy stories and series--with such a large cast of characters, there's someone for everyone to identify with.

    It's similar to what I called the "faction factor" here in another post: there are different groups in these books and films that readers and viewers can identify with and gain a sense of community. I think it's very cool that there are just as many folks who identify with Ravenclaw or even Hufflepuff as those who claim to be Gryffindor.

    Thanks for the comment! I'll check out your link! :)