Received to review via Maximum Pop
Gwenda Bond was on Strange Chemistry’s roster of authors, superhero novels are a thing I enjoy, and making the female supporting characters (like Lois Lane) the star of the story is 100% my thing, so I was quite intrigued by this, and glad to win it for review. Before reading it, I was a little surprised to see people complaining that it doesn’t contain more of Superman/Clark Kent. I mean, the title says Lois Lane. What did you expect? I’m baffled. After reading it, I feel even more so — one, Clark’s a reasonably big figure in the story even if we don’t see him, and two, why do you want Clark when Lois is perfect as the star of this story?
Fallout is a reimagining of Lois’ story, a teen reporter in a new school who cares about the people around her, and doesn’t care much for being asked to sit down and shut up. I don’t remember anything about Lois Lane’s traditional background in the comics and TV adaptations, but here she’s the daughter of an army general — brought up to take care of herself, with a very strong will of her own, and thus clashing with her parents and authority figures in school, but always with heart. She sees an injustice, she goes after it.
Which gives us the very topical basis of the premise: Lois sees that there’s a group of bullies in the school who are getting away with everything, and hears a star student complaining to the principal about it, only to be dismissed. Straight away she’s on the case — and Perry sees her instincts right away, recruiting her for the school magazine. It’s a bit of wish fulfilment, but it keeps the story from dawdling, and puts the focus on the problem, and the developing mystery surrounding it. You can feel how well-aimed this is, in a world that’s increasingly conscious of bullying, particularly cyberbullying.
And then it takes it one step further, and adds the conspiracy theory, the weird almost-magical techy bits. This is such a teenage book: Lois, well-meaning and determined, suspicious of the adult world and penetrating the issues immediately. She’s a great hero; as a teen, I’d have wanted to be her. And it bases it on such a realistic foundation: school officials who don’t notice bullying? I don’t know anyone who got through school without noticing some of that…
Lest you be wondering, Clark is a part of the story. Lois only knows him from the internet, but they trust each other and back each other up, and there’s… something… between them. Nothing they put a name to, not so far, but they care for each other and you can feel how much they want to meet in person and share everything. Clark’s insistence on keeping his secret worked well, and Lois’ reactions as well. Again, I suppose you could see it as topical with how you can meet people online, can you trust them, etc, etc.
For all that I’m saying it’s topical and it feels based in reality and it’s definitely a teenage-feeling book, I’m not saying I enjoyed it any the less for that. I appreciated all of that and enjoyed the story. It’s such an absorbing read, it just felt like pure fun to me. I got back from a day long journey from Brussels to Yorkshire on the train, meant to go right to bed, and picked it up ‘just for a minute’. Seventy pages later, I did eventually make myself go to bed…