DC planning young adult novel starring Lois Lane, but will it find an audience?

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It bounced around the Internet for a few days, but it looks like the truth has been revealed – Switch Press/Capstone is making a young adult novel featuring everyone’s favorite investigative reporter, Lois Lane.

It only took a couple of clues for DC Women Kicking Ass to deduce the upcoming series from Capstone is called Lois Lane: Fallout, and a little more digging found the solicitation information:

Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over—and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight. As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won’t be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They’re messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a friend, a guy she knows only by his screenname, SmallvilleGuy …

We’ve seen Lois Lane as a stand alone series in comic books, and she was a strong character in Tom De Haven’s It’s Superman!, so I think this has the potential of being a very popular series. Why? One only has to look at the really long run of Nancy Drew, Girl Detective that has run nonstop since her debut in 1930.  Lois is an investigative reporter, which plays into the female detective genre, and her name is probably better known than Nancy Drew, which means someone used their noodle in putting two and two together to come up with this book. Tapping Gwenda Bond to write it is another bonus.

Gwenda Bond is the author of the young adult novels Girl on a Wire, Blackwood, and The Woken Gods. She has also written for Publishers Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications, and just might have been inspired to get a journalism degree by her childhood love of Lois Lane. She has an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband, author Christopher Rowe, and their menagerie. Visit her online at gwendabond.com or @gwenda on Twitter.

The only thing that will potentially hurt this book is finding the audience. The Nancy Drew Diaries publishes three times a year, with the most recent book ranking #247,562 in the Amazon Kindle Store.

Do young adults still read books? In a survey released by Scholastic in the 2010 Kids & Family Reading Report, “43 percent of the children ages 9-11 believe the most important outcome of reading books for fun is to open up the imagination. 62 percent of the same demographic say they read books for fun “to be inspired by storylines and characters.” For a group whose numbers were clearly dwindling in the 1990s, it is not surprising that the release of an incredibly imaginative story coincided with a dramatic revival or readership.” (McSweeny’s)

Certainly access to electronic versions of books has helped readership since that 2010 report. In the fall 2012 Scholastic reported that 46% of children read books in electronic form.  For girl readers, there are some disturbing trends:

Kids’ Reading Frequency and Attitudes toward Reading
• Among girls, there has been a decline since 2010 in frequent readers (42% vs. 36%), reading  enjoyment (71% vs. 66%), and the importance of reading books for fun (62% vs. 56%). (Page 22)
• Compared to 2010, boys are more likely to think reading books for fun is important (39% in 2010  vs. 47% in 2012), but they still lag girls on this measure (47% for boys in 2012 vs. 56% for girls in  2012). (Page 23)
• Frequency of reading books for fun is significantly lower for kids age 12–17 than for children  age 6–11; frequency of reading books for school is also lower for kids age 12–17 than for kids  age 6–11. (Page 28)

Can Lois Lane turn this trend around? Certainly a fresh take on the sleuth genre that gets kids thinking and opens a world of entertainment to them is a good thing. Harry Potter changed the way kids read books – and considering the first couple of books in the series were mysteries set at a school of magic, it also falls into this genre. The last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows arrived in stores just over seven years ago.  As Tim McSweeny stated above, this Lois Lane story is going to need to be “an incredibly imaginative story” to increase readership across the board.

Perhaps the mere announcement of the book has already kickstarted the potential success of this book, at least among adults who read YA novels. Currently on pre-order at Amazon.com, Fallout (Lois Lane) is scheduled to arrive May 1, 2015, and already has a Best Seller Ranking of 30,198 in all Books.