SYNOPSIS: A collection of 15 short stories that explore girls from all backgrounds and from all over the United States in time periods starting in the 1700s and moving on to the 1960s.
I demand that all of these short stories be turned into novel-lengths because I loved each an every one and I want more! I really enjoyed how a lot of them played off of American legends and legendary figures and how they all tried to bring light to people in each time period that you don’t see stories about often. A lot of the stories also had some cool twists or mysteries that left me feeling excited. I also liked how each story ended in a way that indicates that these girls’ journeys are just beginning. What I enjoyed even more were the authors notes at the end where they explained why this particular time period inspired them and how they came up with their tales. Now for a more in depth review of each story.
“Mother Carey’s Table” by J. Anderson Coats is the first story and takes place in 1710. This is one of the stories that plays off of a legend and how Anderson explored the legend of Mother Carey. I hadn’t heard of her before and just knew about her husband, Davey Jones, so it was fun to learn about another sea myth. I also loved that it took place on a pirate ship and that our heroine, Joe, was disguised as a boy by her father so that they could be together. I loved their relationship and I also enjoyed how her father joined ship crews for the money and Jo did it because she was in love with the sea. I also liked how the stakes were high for them because if they were caught as pirates they would be sold back into slavery. I don’t want to spoil the twist/ending, but I will say it was beautiful and I loved the way Jo’s story morphed into the myth that we’re told at the very beginning!
“The Journey” by Marie Lu is the next story and it’s one of my favorites in this anthology. It follows an Inuit girl named Yakone (for the red aurora borealis) in 1723 when Europeans were coming into Alaska. I liked how Lu decided to portray a darker part of American history because I think at times we forget/don’t learn about the things that happened to the native people of America and Canada. I also loved how this story played on Inuit folktales and was able to blend the mystical with the real. I also liked how we got a little glimpse of the normal, every day life of this particular Inuit tribe and their traditions before the Europeans arrived and I loved that we got a glimpse at what an assimilated tribe looked like. This is for sure a story that I want to be elongated into a novel because I love Yakone as a heroine and I love this world that is on the edge of becoming something different.
“Madeleine’s Choice” by Jessica Spotswood is the third story and it follows a free woman of color in 1826 New Orleans. I knew that there were free people of color living in New Orleans, but I haven’t really found any stories that talk about them and I love how they formed their own community. I also liked that although they are technically free, there is still some prejudice they have to face and that was highlighted well. This story includes the use of the legendary Marie Laveau and you can’t really tell a tale about New Orleans without bringing up voodoo. Although I wish that Marie Laveau had a slightly larger presence in the story, I did like that Spotswood was able to paint this vivid picture of all aspects of New Orleans. At it’s heart, this story has an absolutely adorable love story and I would totally read an extended version of it!
“El Destinos” by Leslye Walton is the fourth story and it takes place in 1848 Texas. This was another one of my favorites. I loved how Walton re-imagined the three fates of mythology into young, Mexican-American girls. The El Paso landscape really became it’s own character and I love the description of the desert and of the every day life of the Mexican people that suddenly found themselves to be Americans. I also loved how each sister had a specific role to play in the lives of all the people and how they have lived many lives. Their relationship to each other was beautiful and I loved how our narrator didn’t adjust to their current life in the way that her sisters did. It was truly beautiful to read.
“High Stakes” by Andrea Cremer is the next story and it takes place in 1861. This one felt a little out of place because it was very embedded in the realm of fantasy with history as a small backdrop, but I still enjoyed it! I loved the concept that the fate of the world is decided by a game between all the elite supernatural creatures. I also enjoyed that Klio was an assassin for hire and we are left wondering what supernatural creature she is until the very end and when it is revealed it is the greatest thing ever! I also liked the rumblings of the Civil War about to begin and I just wish that that had been played up just a smidge more.
“The Red Raven Ball” by Caroline Tung Richmond is the sixth story and set in 1862 Washington, D.C. I really enjoyed the whole spy vs. spy element, but in fancy ballgowns. This story is set during the Civil War and I enjoyed seeing how the rich of the North sort of reacted to what was going on. I loved how independent and opinionated Lizzie was and I also enjoyed how she struggled with finding her own voice until the very end of the story. I also liked that her uncle entrusted her with the task to find out who the Confederate spy in the capitol was and that the spy was the person you would least expect.
“Pearls” by Beth Revis is the seventh story and set in 1876. This one felt a little lackluster to me, but I did like that it dealt with how rape was handled (and pretty much still is handled) in a time where women were seen as property. I liked how Helen took charge of her own destiny and I liked how she gained her students love and respect during her short time as a teacher in a subscription school. I felt like her past caught up with her in a weirdly short amount of page time, but I loved how her students rallied around her. Reading the author’s note I discovered that one of the students was supposed to be Annie Oakley and I almost wish that the story had been about her. I think that would’ve been interesting and inherently dramatic because of how rough her younger years were. However, I did enjoy Helen’s story and the atmosphere of a town slowly working to become a city.
“Gold in the Roots of the Grass” by Marissa Meyer comes next and it takes place in 1877 Dakota Territory. I love Marissa Meyer, so it’s no surprise that this is another one of my favorites. I loved how this story was told from the POV of a young Chinese woman and how the story played on what people expected from Fei-Yen as a fortune-teller/spirit shaman versus how it really worked. I also loved that there was a mini mystery at its heart and the use of ghosts. I enjoyed that Fei-Yen could actually talk to spirits, but occasionally had to make things up when they wouldn’t contact her. I liked that lying made her feel ashamed and I also enjoyed that she tried to be kind to every spirit that crossed her path. This is another story where I demand a continuation because the cross-country adventures of Sun Fei-Yen and James Hill sounds amazing.
“The Legendary Garrett Girls” by Y. S. Lee is the ninth story and set in 1898 Alaska. Add this one to my list of favorites in this anthology. I really enjoyed that Clara and Lily were two young women running their own highly successful saloon and how even though their personalities were at complete odds with each other there was never that weird sibling rivalry/jealousy that came with it. They made an great and effective team and it’s always fun seeing gross men getting outsmarted by girls. I also liked how this story touched a little on the prejudice affected the natives of Alaska and that the Tlingit character, John, was a valued friend of the Garrett sisters. It was also cool that the villain was a real person that I had never been aware of until now.
“The Color of the Sky” by Elizabeth Wein is the next on and set in 1926. The catalyst for this tale is the death of Bessie Coleman and I loved seeing how inspirational she was through the eyes of young black girl living in Jacksonville, Florida where Bessie Coleman died. I love Elizabeth Wein’s historical fiction, so it’s no surprise that I adored this story. I love seeing how just one person can pave the way for so many people and I love that Bessie inspired Tony to study physics and aerodynamics. I also appreciated that Wein didn’t stray away from getting gritty with the portrayal of the discrimination and language that people of color faced, even if they were famous. It’s always amazing to see how just one person can affect the lives of so many people. I love that although Bessie Coleman’s death was tragic the story ended in a hopeful moment on the precipice of a brighter future.
“Bonnie and Clyde” by Saundra Mitchell is the eleventh story and set in 1934 Indiana. This story was so cute and one of my favorites! I loved how clever Marjorie was and I liked that although she considered Bonnie Parker to be a hero of hers, she was more into robbing for the fun of it and to help people rather than for the fame. I also enjoyed the little cat and mouse game that she plays with her beau, Caleb. It’s great that she disguises herself as a boy to steal and then returns to being a girl the rest of the time and no one thinks to connect the two. I really want a story where Caleb finally figures it out and what he would do. I really loved how it wasn’t intense like it can be when you have a thief on the run and that the playful and fun aspect was heightened instead. It is hilarious to think that nobody would consider that a girl could be dressing up like a boy to rob banks and how everyone in the town turns a blind eye to Marjorie’s sneaking money in the mailboxes and paying for things in her family.
“Hard Times” by Katherine Longshore is the twelfth story and set in 1934 Washington. This is yet another one of my favorites and I liked that Longshore decided to bring in a little of that Hollywood hope to this bleak era. It was interesting to see have the hobo be a girl because usually in media hobos are strictly male, but there had to be women hobos as well. I loved how Rosie tried to be strong and tough because she thought that’s what she had to be in order to survive. Her relationship with Billy is really sweet and I love that he brings out the big sister in her no matter how hard she tries to suppress it. I also like how Lloyd isn’t the swaggering newspaper man that he is set up to be and is genuinely interested in the hobo lifestyle and wants to report the truth. I loved how they all brought hope to each other and were heading towards a possible happily ever after.
“City of Angels” by Lindsay Smith is next and set in 1945 Los Angeles. Although this story has a happy ending, I wish that Frankie and Evie got to stay together. This story is basically about Evie realizing that she is a lesbian through her relationship with Frankie and it was interesting to see that lifestyle during a time where most of the men were gone and it was (in a way) easier to be a lesbian. I also liked that Evie wanted to fully embrace who she is even though there could’ve been huge consequences in terms of if she could still live in her boardinghouse, keep her job, etc. I liked how this was set toward the end of the war, so the men were coming back and resuming their jobs both in the working sense and the relationship sense. I enjoyed that these issues were touched on in regards to what Evie was going to do and of course since the girls were in LA, they both had Hollywood dreams. I also liked that Evie was a writer because it would’ve been so easy to have both girls be competing actresses. All in all I really liked that by the end Evie found a place where she belonged and she felt like she could have a strong writing career.
“Pulse of the Panthers” by Kekla Magoon is the fourteenth story and set in 1967 California. What I enjoyed about this story is that there is clearly a before and after for Sandy. We get to see her life before the Black Panthers came to her farm for firearms training and we are left with what her life could be after. I liked how the Black Panthers were shown as idealistic young men and while they used violence as the end to their means it was emphasized that their number one priority was to educate the masses on what they deserve as human beings which is different from what we are shown/told of them. Sandy has a social awakening during the time that the Panthers stay at her little farm and we are left with the feeling that she might aspire for something greater for herself as well. I also loved the little beginnings of a relationship with Bobby. It was so sweet and adorable and I loved that he was eager to teach her all that he was learning and that she was eager to learn.
“The Whole World is Watching” by Robin Talley is the final story and set in 1968 Grant Park, Chicago. This story held nothing back in regards to the police brutality during the Democratic National Convention protest, but despite the war-like atmosphere there is a happy lesbian couple for those of you who want more of that. I liked how Jill is still coming to terms with her sexuality and who she is as a person because I think that’s something a lot of people go through during college. I also liked how Jill also got a couple of slightly racist statements thrown at her. She makes a statement about how people never call her girlfriend, Diane, “sister” and I liked that rather than going for the obvious ways people can be racist, Talley went for the ways people can unintentionally misspeak. I also enjoyed that you saw all the types of people that were against the Vietnam war from your average students to the hippies. It was cool that you got a glimpse at what Jill’s life was before college and a sense of how far she’s come in terms of her own identity against this turbulent backdrop.
Overall if you love Historical Fiction then I highly suggest you pick up this anthology!