Monday, May 14, 2012

The Princesses of Iowa ~ M. Molly Backes (earc) review

The Princesses of Iowa
Candlewick Press
May 8, 2012
464 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Paige just spent her summer in Paris and everyone's more than ready to tell her how lucky she is, how wonderful it must have been, "oh to be young again," they say. Paige's trip wasn't a lazy vacation, it wasn't a fun summer tooling around Paris - she was exiled their by her parents.

Forcibly volunteered to work (without pay) as a babysitter after last spring's accident, Paige is just happy to get back home and have everything return to normal.

Only it doesn't.

Her friends weren't granted a summer getaway (forced or not, enjoyed or not) and they don't appreciate Paige's summer abroad. Paige should have everything: she's young, rich, popular and starting her senior year. But last spring's car accident after she and her best friends leave a party (and have been drinking). It's an accident that cold have been much, much worse but it's now, in the fall that its effects seem to really be coming to light.

With her best friends and her boyfriends drifting away from her, her sister seemingly a whole new person and under her mother's constant pressure, can Paige figure out who she is - not just who they want her to be?

And will she let her creative writing class, something she thought was a joke but might turn out to be so much more, play a role?


Oh, Princesses of Iowa, you confuse me! Not a ton, but a bit more than a little bit. It took some commitment on my part to get into this book. For whatever reason, the first two-hundred or so pages were just okay for me. I didn't dislike them, but I also didn't love them.

After that, however, I started to really enjoy Princesses. While I wasn't expecting so much out of the book- plot wise, it was a lot deeper than I anticipated - and I don't know if that's because I misread the synopsis or forgot it, I'm glad it wasn't fluff.

Backes doesn't shy away from the issues in her debut. The negative, hateful, and/or bigoted things people say aren't glossed over and then politely referenced later when a reaction, consequence or some big resolution is needed. People say things that are (beyond) not nice and characters react - or sometimes fail to - in the moment. It's a really fantastic representation of how life can be.

Paige's struggle with whether she is who she is or who all these other people (her mother, her best friends, her boyfriend, etc) expect her to be was very well done. Things weren't black and white and they weren't cut and dry, Paige realizes a is this and b is that, the end. It really was a struggle with her. There were steps backwards and steps forwards - sometimes steps sideways, too.

The Princesses of Iowa also, absolutely, made me want to take a creative writing class. If you love writing, you'll love those parts of Princesses and if not, you just might find yourself considering taking up the activity!


While I applaud the author for tackling so many issues - and not always cleanly or nicely - I do want to mention something that I saw also mentioned in another review on Goodreads [Laura from Clear Eyes, Full Shelves]. There sexual situations/sex involved in the book where the female characters is drunk. I may be wrong but I think they're the only sex in the book. It's never really brought up as an issue - besides maybe someone thinking that a character drinks too much - how not cool that is.

And one of the situations in Princesses was an attempted assault that is never discussed or brought up again. There are probably a thousand ways to attempt going about addressing this SafeCampus.org has a blog that does it better.

While I get that teens get drunk and I get that teens have sex, if you're going to do a book that is going to tackle so many issues, either don't include them together or do try to somehow make it one of your issues.


Rating: 7/10


Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my e-galley for review

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