FEATURED BOOK OF THE WEEK
John David Anderson
The Avengers meets Louis Sachar in this hilarious and action-packed tween novel by John David Anderson, which Publishers Weekly called a "superhero story that any comics fan will enjoy" in a starred review.
Andrew Bean might be a part of H.E.R.O., a secret organization for the training of superhero sidekicks, but that doesn't mean that life is all leaping tall buildings in single bounds. First, there's Drew's power: Possessed of super senses—his hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell are the most powerful on the planet—he's literally the most sensitive kid in school. Then there's his superhero mentor, a former legend who now spends more time straddling barstools than fighting crime. Add in trying to keep his sidekick life a secret from everyone, including his parents, and the truth is clear: Middle school is a drag even with superpowers.
But this is all before a supervillain long thought dead returns to the city of Justicia, superheroes begin disappearing at an alarming rate, and Drew's two identities threaten to crash head-on into each other. Drew has always found it pretty easy to separate right from wrong, good from evil. It's what a superhero does. But what happens when that line starts to disappear?
Imaginations are heady things.
Sometimes, a lot of times, I use my imagination to get away. That’s the joy of being a writer (or one of the joys anyways, outside of all of the free chocolate you get when you go up to people and say, “Yo, I’m a writer, give me some chocolate.”)—this ability to transcend the mendacity of daily life to go open wardrobe doors and fight frosty queens alongside goat people or whatever. Or to blast off to outer space and pretend that Pluto is not only still a planet, but is, in fact, inhabited by a race of hyper-intelligent toddlers who have constructed a world completely out of Lincoln Logs. Imaginations are the ultimate escape routes. They are the travel agents of the mind.
Sometimes, not too often, my imagination lets me get away with stuff. Like when I told my mother that I accidentally spilled fruit punch all down the front of my shirt because a bee landed on my thumb and scared the bee-jeezus out of me, causing my hand to jerk uncontrollably, when, in actuality, I had just poured it on my chest deliberately because I was pretending that an alien was bursting out of my chest and the fruit punch was the closest the thing we had to fake blood—the ketchup bottle being mostly empty and our jelly always being grape. On a related note, I probably watched too much cable television as a kid.
Sometimes, every once in a while, my imagination gets away from me. Those are the best times of all. Some people call them “moments of inspiration.” You can’t predict them. Sometimes they’re short little bursts, like brain sneezes. Like when you are thinking about something completely normal, like what to make for dinner, and all of the sudden an image of a chainsaw-wielding psycho zombie clown with one eyeball and a giant red bulbous clown nose like a ripe tomato pops into your head and asks you if you’d like some cotton candy, and you think to yourself—Man, where did that come from?
Or maybe that’s just me. Clowns freak me out a little.
Sometimes they are long reveries, those foggy, surreal daydreams, like you’re thinking in pastels or watercolors, everything swirling and chaotic and weird, but you catch hold of something, an inkling, a teaser trailer (complete with John Williams musical score) and your like, “Whoa. I gotta write this down,” but you don’t, because you are forgetful. And that darn clown is still chasing after you.
Still, it sits there, this fleeting inspiration, somewhere in that marvelous contraption we call a brain. And it germinates. And you work it lie a cow works cud, sometimes with that same doe-eyed expression that a cow gets, turning it over and over in your head, adding logic and form, pulling threads from the complex webs that populate the other places in your skull, and tying them all together, until you’ve taken that inspiration and turned into an idea. I’m told that’s called being creative.
Sidekicked started with one of those brain sneezes. An image of a boy dangling above a pool of acid waiting for someone to save him and knowing that no one’s gonna. And I pulled and tied and wove and trimmed and tucked and cursed until I had an idea, a question really, about who this kid was and why he wasn’t getting saved, and then those questions got answers and those answers became a novel. But it all started with that one image—and I have no idea where it came from or why, of the thousands of brain sneezes I get a day, that one stuck with me.
People are always asking me where my ideas come from (after telling me that they don’t actually have any chocolate and I should really stop asking). I give all kinds of answers. Fairies. Muses. Other books. The world around me. Conversations with my kids. Things I overhear at the Great Clips. The truth is, I really don’t know.
We really don’t know. The imagination is still a mystery to us. A beautiful, wonderful, perplexing, frustrating, enchanting mystery. It may not exactly be the thing that makes us human, but it certainly makes being human more interesting. And I couldn’t imagine being without one.
Just don’t tell the clown.
About the Author
John David Anderson writes novels. Lots of novels. He just doesn't always get them published. He is the author of Sidekicked, Minion, Standard Hero Behavior, and the soon-to-be-released The Dungeoneers. He lives with his patient wife and brilliant twins in Indianapolis, Indiana, right next to a State park and a Walmart. He does not wear ties but will wear sandals in the snow. He enjoys hiking, reading, chocolate, spending time with his family, playing the piano, chocolate, making board games, chocolate, not putting away his laundry, watching movies, and chocolate. Those aren't his real teeth. Seriously. The middle four on top? Lost 'em in a car accident. It's all right, though, the plastic ones look nice and he can still eat corn on the cob. Learn more about John David Anderson on his website.