A number of years ago, at the community college where I teach, two of my colleagues—one in English and one in Sociology—did a great presentation about the character of Lois Lane and how her portrayal in different Superman incarnations (comic, movie, TV shows) has been shaped by the time periods in which she and they were created—shifting from independent woman to more helpless damsel in distress and back again. Similarly, a friend of mine from grad school, is currently focusing a lot of her academic energies on this character. Truthfully, I always felt that Lois Lane was more interesting than Clark Kent/Superman and this latest version of Lois, brought to life by Gwenda Bond, is both engaging and very much in the “now.”
Double Down is Gwenda Bond’s second outing with Lois, who is a teenager and recently moved to Metropolis. Lois is an army brat with a knack for getting into trouble and a passion for seeking out the truth and this has led to the creation of a very thick and thorny “permanent record” file—one that Lois has never seen but her current principal, Mr. Butler, keeps sitting on his desk. However, since Lois’s father, General Lane, has promised that the family will stay in Metropolis for the next few years, Lois both wants to make friends and keep out of trouble. Luckily for us, she’s much better at the former than the latter.
In the first book, Fallout, Lois gets involved with the student paper, The Scoop, which is sponsored by the Daily Planet, so Lois gets some direct mentoring from Perry White as well as meets a group of fellow student reporters who, over the course of the first book, become her friends: Maddy, Devin, and James. As this second book begins, Lois is heading to Suicide Slum to do what she considers a puff piece for the school paper—interview a fellow student, Dante Alvarez, who is painting a mural in his neighborhood. As Lois wraps up her interview, she is surprised to see Melody, her friend Maddy’s twin sister, stumble out of a cab across the street and crumple to the ground. The events that have brought Melody to this neighborhood are mysterious and not surprisingly, pull Lois, her “Scoop team Scooby Gang” as well as Dante into a situation and a potential story that are definitely not superficial—a secret scientific project involving twins as well as a disgraced mayor who may be innocent.
As in the first book, Lois is not only dealing with the mystery of the month but also negotiating her developing “virtual” relationship with SmallvilleGuy, a boy she met on a discussion board (for people who have seen strange things in the sky). Lois now communicates directly with SmallvilleGuy via a special app on her phone as well as meets him in an online gaming platform, Worlds War Three. Though she has never met him face to face and doesn’t know his real name, it’s clear that SmallvilleGuy is her best friend and someone she relies on. In this novel, there’s a problem happening at SmallvilleGuy’s end and this time, it might be Lois who needs to save the day.
I don’t want to get too much into the plot here because part of the fun is seeing how the story unfolds and figuring out what is going on. As I said before, Lois is a great combination of Veronica Mars and well, Lois Lane. She is constantly doing stupidly dangerous things for all the right reasons and is incapable of not helping someone in trouble. At the same time, she is a typical teen—worrying about curfew, trying to keep her grades up, worried about maintaining her friendship with Maddy, and unsure if she should take her relationship with SmallvilleGuy to the next level. I feel like Gwenda Bond is having a lot of fun with this and so, as a result, do I. The hardest thing about finishing this book is that I can’t just jump to the next one, Netflix binge style; I have to wait for Bond to write it. Sigh.