Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release: March 8, 2016
From an impressive sisterhood of YA writers comes an edge-of-your-seat anthology of historical fiction and fantasy featuring a diverse array of daring heroines.Short story collections, especially multi-author anthologies, always pose difficulties for me as a reviewer. A traditional novel generally contains one overarching plotline and usually features one writing style, creating a single story for me to praise or critique. Short stories, on the other hand, are more fragmented, more mix-matched, leaving me with several concerning questions: What if I love one but not another? What if I enjoy two stories for different reasons? How can I convey my overall thoughts when my reaction varies from story to story?
Criss-cross 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.
Such questions sneaked into my mind while I read A Tyranny of Petticoats, as could only be expected with such an eclectic collection of stories. This anthology excels in diversity of nearly every kind—it features protagonists of various races, sexualities, and backgrounds, and the stories span geography and time from Alaska to Massachusetts, from 1710 to 1968. It blends various genres, mixing in magical realism, mythology, and thriller- and western-style twists. And the result is a combination of tales that, inevitably, will produce varying reactions in any given reader. While I enjoyed every story in this anthology, I must admit that some had me more invested than others due to genre preferences, creating a slight feeling of disappointment during certain chapters. However, this is not so much a criticism as it is a mere observation, an unavoidable truth of every anthology that is merely amplified by this book's commendable diversity. And on the bright side, the variety of settings and genres means that every reader will find at least a handful of stories to enjoy.
Furthermore, despite the variety of storytelling styles, A Tyranny of Petticoats also features a certain cohesion. The chronological progression of the stories makes the plot move along smoothly, the years flying by beneath pages, pausing only for a short glimpse into each character's life. As a result, each story seems like a small window into history, framed by the tales of past and future. I loved watching society become more advanced socially and technologically in each story, a reoccurring theme that weaves the far-flung stories together.
And perhaps most importantly, each story contains one common element: a smart, strong, and resourceful female protagonist who deals with the troubles of her time with grit and grace. As Jessica Spotswood states in her manifesto of an introduction, "despite their many important contributions, women—especially queer women, women of color, and women with disabilities—have too often been erased from history." But A Tyranny of Petticoats works to change that, spotlighting women across centuries who make small but empowering impacts on the course of history. With characters who prove there's no one single way to be a strong female, this anthology belongs on every list of feminist historical fiction—and feminist literature in general.
I knew from the second I heard about A Tyranny of Petticoats that it would be a shining success, and I couldn't be happier to say that I was right. With a concept and a team of authors so fantastic, it is nearly impossible to go wrong. Read it because your favorite author wrote one of the stories, read it to learn more about several stops in American history, read it to uncover the stories of lesser-heard voices, or read it for any other reason; if you're a fan of historical fiction, I highly recommend that you do.