Our friends can take us on some wild journeys from time to time. Sometimes that journey is to a magical world filled with sights and sounds beyond our imagination. And sometimes it is to a convenience store at 3:00 a.m. because someone has an insatiable craving for cheese balls.
Either way, it’s clear that our besties can alter the trajectory of our lives. Normally, that’s not a bad thing. Other times, our friends’ baggage somehow becomes our own. And when deadly monsters, supernatural powers, and vengeful gods start popping up out of nowhere, we’re usually left thinking Is this friendship really worth all this trouble?
But before you drop your best friend for making a mess of your life, you may want to consider the very real possibility that you’ve somehow taken on the role of sidekick in their story of self-actualization.
Apologies to those of you who thought you had main-character energy. Here are six telltale signs that you’re a second banana:
1. A Talking Animal or Mystical Creature Has Joined Your Friend Group
Not to denigrate any talking animals or mystical creatures that may be reading this (we see you, and we love you), but we humans tend to stick to our own species for the most part. So, if your friend brings a smart-mouthed pigeon or living doll to your next get-together, you may want to ask where they came from. (And if the new addition is anything like Gum Baby from the Tristan Strong series, be sure to choose your words very carefully.)
2. A Mysterious Stranger is Trying to Get You to Turn on Your Friend
Do you feel like someone is trying to get between you and your bestie? Usually, these third wheels are just petty and jealous of the bond you two share. But when this person starts using saying things like We will have our retribution, and All this power could be yours, there may be something fishy going on. Always be wary of anyone who tries to reorient your moral compass with the promise of eternal glory. Nine times out of ten, this person is just using you to get to your friend. Check out what happened to Dante in the Paola Santiago series for more information on that situation.
3. You’ve Become Way More Proficient in Hand-to-Hand Combat Lately
Learning new things is one of the greatest joys of any friendship. Whether it’s a new skill, hobby, dance routine . . . or how to absolutely wipe the floor with bloodthirsty vampires and demons. For reference, see Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Vampire Hunting for instances in which average, everyday teenagers learn the ancient art of butt-kicking thanks to a new exchange student. And speaking of exchange students . . .
4. Your Best Friend’s New Love Interest Comes from Far Away. Very Far Away.
Most of us know the feeling all too well. Your best friend has a new crush on someone who seems to have come from nowhere, and something about this person just doesn’t feel right. Have you considered the possibility that they’re from a mystical otherworld? Or maybe you’ve known this crush for a while, but they’ve always ignored you and your friend until recently. They’re suddenly in your friend group without much of an explanation other than your BFF saying, “We need their help to defeat the demons.” Sure. Whatever you say, buddy.
Look into City of the Plague God and Ballad & Dagger for further guidance on this.
Side note: Always make super sure that the new person in your friend’s life isn’t a long-lost secret sibling. We’ve seen too many sidekicks make this mistake. Awwwkward.
5. A Seemingly Random Object from Your Past Has Begun Glowing/Calling Out to You, etc.
Have a piece of jewelry or a journal that one of your parents left behind before they mysteriously disappeared? Has this object started shining, glowing, or calling to you in your dreams? Don’t get too excited. This may be less of a call to your own adventure than a key element in your friend’s quest. But it’s a good sign that you’ll come in handy, at least! Even if there isn’t room for you on the book cover. Just ask Emmett from the Gifted Clans series.
Also ask him for his chocolate chip cookie recipe. It’s almost always the sidekick’s duty to provide tasty snacks for their main-character best friend.
6. You’re Suddenly Funnier Than You’ve Ever Been Before
At a certain point, there’s no denying reality. You wake up one day to find that your life is filled with monsters, gods, and no shortage of near-death experiences. And you and your friend are stuck in the middle of it all. But even more disorienting than all that? You have the perfect quips and one-liners for almost every new situation. Your friend may have some clever rejoinders of their own, but more often than not, they’ll save those for their internal monologue. Typical protagonist behavior.
For better or for worse, it’s sidekicks who are responsible for bringing levity to the situation. Look to characters like Hondo from the Storm Runner trilogy on how to make the most of your new role as the comic relief.
If you can relate to one or more of the aforementioned signs, we have some bad news. But likely, you already knew what’s been going on. Sidekicks tend to be way more self-aware than protagonists, after all.
But the solution isn’t to run away! Lean into your support role and make it your own. Your best friend could probably use all the help they can get at this stage. And if we’ve learned anything from RRP sidekicks in the past, the good ones never turn their back on a friend in need.
Hey, you never know. Maybe, if you and your friend survive the final confrontation with the big bad, you’ll be able to hold onto the magical abilities/enchanted objects you picked up along the way. Or even better, get a spin-off series of your own!