[For an audio version of this article, please listen to Episode 15 of Recently Read on The Incomparable podcast network.]
The Friday Report Presents: Everything You Need To Know about True Blue Aussie Beaut Superheroes, But Were Afraid To Ask
That’s the title of the first chapter of Girl Reporter by Tansy Rayner Roberts. It’s the story of Friday Valentina, daughter of one of the world’s most famous reporters. Friday is a successful reporter in her own right, in the mileu of “new media”—she’s a YouTube vlogger, a live-tweeter, and always has her phone at hand to capture the story. This gets much trickier when the story at hand, the one she’s been avoiding for a while, is this: her famous mother is missing, and her found-family-brother, who happens to be a superhero, thinks they should do something about it.
I should mention that in this version of the world, Australia (along with every other country) has mysterious machines that turn people into superheroes. In Australia, there are five heroes at any given time. Every six months, a new hero is chosen, and one of the existing five retires. These heroes are not only saviors of the world, but celebrities—gracing the covers of magazines and inspiring royal-family-level gossip and speculation. Friday’s mother made her name getting the first interview with one of the heroes, and there’s a very good chance her disappearance has something to do with this. (I won’t spoil where she is or who she’s with, but it’s a helluva reveal.)
Like a fool, I started reading this novella at bedtime, expecting to get a couple chapters in and then fall asleep like I usually do. Alas, the relatable determination and snark of the main character, along with the lively prose, kept me awake and interested—while the intense need to know what happened next kept me turning the virtual pages until I’d finished the whole book. And then, because I just wanted a little bit more about this fantastic story, I read the afterward, in which Roberts admits this story is a love-letter to all the “girl reporters” in comics—the women with no superpowers but plenty of resolve, resourcefulness, and raw talent.
I knew this wasn’t Roberts’ first time writing in this universe, as I’d read her short story “Cookie Cutter Hero” in the Kaleidoscope anthology. That story explains how the “new” Solar (a teenage girl with one hand) received her superhero powers, but I didn’t realize this was the second *book* in this universe until the next day when I looked it up on Goodreads. To be honest, it really didn’t matter that it was a sequel. I got all the context I needed, and I was never confused about what was happening or why. (Though I am definitely gonna go back and read book one, Kid Dark Against the Machine.)
I really recommend Girl Reporter, especially if you have any fondness for superhero-fiction. Roberts pokes fun at the tropes while demonstrating she knows and loves them oh-so-well. I should warn you though, if you don’t like to laugh at (and with) your heroes, this book may not be for you. Also, if you’re not comfortable with feminism, 80s fashion, diversity, or lesbian sex, you might want to avoid this. If those things are your things? Don’t hesitate! Pick up Girl Reporter now!