Friday, May 6, 2016

DNF Diaries: A Tyranny of Petticoats

I fully expected to love this anthology of short stories that feature badass girls in American history. Unfortunately, that’s not at all what happened. Welcome to another installment of DNF Diaries!

“Crisscross America — on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches and trains — from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They're making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.”

The Good: Some awesome YA authors wrote stories that about women throughout American history, which is an amazing concept. Further, they’ve covered the entire gamut of American history, from colonial days to the Civil Rights movement, and created protagonists that are as diverse as the American population.

The Bad: I read roughly 100 pages before giving up, so I obviously can only talk about the stories I managed to finish. Those stories, however, were not well written. I wasn’t engaged by any of the early stories, perhaps because short stories are difficult for me to enjoy, but mostly because the writing and plot lines were just meh. I forced myself through one underwhelming story, assuming the next would be better. It wasn’t. Rinse and repeat until I just couldn’t handle another subpar attempt at historical fiction. As someone from Louisiana, I found Jessica Spotswood’s story particularly shitty. Just…nope.

The Ugly: Why, I ask the universe, on my knees, shaking my fists at the sky as a torrential downpour splatters raindrops on my tear-stained face, why did this have to be magical realism?!? Whyyyyy??? It is already so difficult to find quality historical fiction in YA. As a trained historian, I was ecstatic to read what I thought would be an awesome anthology about young women in America’s history. I was not ecstatic to read those stories, with the addition of supernatural creatures and magic. What that says to me is that these authors didn’t think history was good enough for young readers – we need to add magic! But not all of the stories have magic, so on top of the confusing magical realism this anthology isn’t even consistent! History is already interesting enough, and the insistence to include magic was distracting to the point of irritation. Why couldn’t this just be a straight up historical fiction anthology? I was obviously so annoyed that I couldn’t force myself to read another page.

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