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The Princesses of Iowa [Kindle Edition]

M. Molly Backes
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

What does it mean to do wrong, when no one punishes you? A smart and unflinching look at friendship, the nature of entitlement, and growing up in the heartland. Paige Sheridan has the perfect life. She's pretty, rich, and popular, and her spot on the homecoming court is practically guaranteed. But when a night of partying ends in an it-could-have-been-so-much-worse crash, everything changes. Her best friends start ignoring her, her boyfriend grows cold and distant, and her once-adoring younger sister now views her with contempt. The only bright spot is her creative writing class, led by a charismatic new teacher who encourages students to be true to themselves. But who is Paige, if not the homecoming princess everyone expects her to be? In this arresting and witty debut, a girl who was once high-school royalty must face a truth that money and status can't fix, and choose between living the privileged life of a princess, or owning up to her mistakes and giving up everything she once held dear.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up-Three popular girls-Paige, Lacey and Nikki-are involved in an accident at the end of their junior year of high school as a result of drunk driving. Sent away for the summer to be an au pair in Paris by her image-conscious mother, Paige returns to her senior year only to find her friends and boyfriend acting strangely. The once tight threesome is divided by Nikki's possible anorexia and promiscuity, injured Lacey's air of martyrdom, and Paige's lack of sympathy. Their goal of being homecoming princesses begins to look less likely. When Paige takes a creative writing class with a charismatic teacher who encourages students to be true to themselves and meets some uncool teens, her character develops and she slowly learns to be kinder and less of a snob. There are a lot of pertinent themes in Backes's novel (Candlewick, 2012): peer pressure, problematic family relationships, casual cruelty of teens, and homophobia. Not all are satisfactorily dealt with, but listeners will be interested to track Paige's growth. Shelby Lewis's spot-on narration perfectly reflects the teenage tone, drawing listeners in. She makes some characters even more likeable than they were on the page, and draws our attention to the arrogance of others. Ultimately, Paige reveals who was behind the wheel on that fateful night, and the girls do their best to deal with the situation. A good choice for young adult collections.-B. Allison Gray, Goleta Library, CAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


A well-executed first novel... Backes addresses guilt, deceit, homophobia, loyalty, and the burden of keeping up appearances in a brutally believable high school setting as Paige recognizes the weaknesses of loved ones and her own imperfections.
—Publishers Weekly

In this debut novel, Backes takes Dead Poets Society and brings it into the age of Mean Girls. Her writing style is witty while still being relatable, and the themes of acceptance and identity will ring true to teens... Backes re-creates a world that most teens already live in, with the overarching message that anyone can become more than what others perceive them to be.
—School Library Journal

Product Details

  • File Size: 625 KB
  • Print Length: 461 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0763653128
  • Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #457,543 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, funny, and poignant May 8, 2012
4.5 stars

The Princesses of Iowa book wasn't what I expected at all. It made me feel so much, I don't even really know where to begin. I can tell you that at the time of writing this review, it's been several weeks since I finished reading the book, and it's still on my mind.

Paige is a perfect princess. Or at least, that's the image she's projected to people her entire life. She and her two best friends have worked toward being princesses for most of their lives - being pretty, being popular, and having people see them as worthy of attention and admiration. That's all that really matters in life. But when Paige realizes how shallow and superficial she's been, and that her friends are just as bad - if not worse - life changes completely for her.

Her mother's obsessive need for perfection made Paige paranoid and self-conscious. I lost count of the number of times my jaw dropped at the critical things her mother said, or the back-handed compliments. As ridiculous as it may sound, there were moments when I wanted to cry, because I couldn't imagine a mother actually saying those things, being so selfish, or putting that much pressure on her daughter.

I connected with Paige on a very deep level. Even though her life was completely different from mine, I could put myself in her shoes so easily. Nobody really saw her for her. Nobody knew the real Paige. Paige didn't even really know the real Paige, but as she learned more about herself, as her character grew and changed, I was so proud of her for her self-discovery. Besides her own issues, and the tough life lessons she had to learn, she was surrounded by hypocrisy, racism, bigotry, and homophobia.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I brought The Princesses of Iowa up again in conversation last night.

I was having an engaging conversation with someone I had just met (as we were both volunteering for the same organization), and the as we kept talking it came up that we both like to read well developed stories. Not just to escape, but to read interesting stories that make one think. Which is why I had to tell another person why I had read, and enjoyed immensely, a book that was written in the voice of a teenage girl.

As an educated heterosexual adult male, the books most often recommended to me fall along the lines of the Bourne series. They are normally fine, but many times (ok, nearly all of the time) these books rely on the assumed excitement of being in dangerous situations. That's fine, but ...also why I end up reading more technical texts instead of reading for pleasure these days.

I can poke fun of myself, and have brought this up at various social functions because I think it's fairly funny. A couple of times The Princesses of Iowa was mentioned as something that I would definitely enjoy if I was looking for character development.

BUT - I'm a guy. I drink whiskey. I don't read teeny-bopper fiction, and barely made it through Harry Potter. My friends knew this, but still recommended that I give it a shot. Repeatedly.


Thinking more to placate friends I picked it up and got going.

Then something interesting happened; my housemate tried to talk to me. I was not impressed with her timing. I checked my watch and I had been reading for three hours ...and had no intention of stopping. As soon as I realized that was happening, I told her that it was interesting and we could talk about what was going on later - when I was done with the book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A love letter to Iowa May 22, 2012
At one of the author's book launch parties, she said that she wrote this book as "a love letter to Iowa." I think she nailed that just about perfectly.

Paige, as a girl who is both traditionally gorgeous and traditionally popular, is unlike everything I was in high school and everything I am now. She smokes, drinks, wears staggeringly high heels, and regularly applies mascara. In contrast, I've never tried a cigarette, have never had more than half a glass of wine (and that wasn't until I was 26), prefer to wear flats, and would probably end up looking like a rundown raccoon if I tried to put on mascara. In short, I shouldn't identify with Paige. But I do--and that is what's truly amazing about this book. Paige is such a real, true person that I feel for her even though we have nothing in common and even though there are many points in the narrative where I stopped to think, "Geez, she is a jerk."

Every so often, I will come across a book that is so all-consuming that I can't get out of its world. Yesterday, while I was reading this book, my boyfriend asked me a question. I vaguely recognized that he had spoken, but I had no idea what he'd said. I snapped my head up and said, "What? What?!" Not only was I annoyed at being jarred out of the book's universe, but I felt as if I shouldn't have to be. I was strangely detached from the real world, as if everything that was true existed only in the book.

I didn't want The Princesses of Iowa to ever end. Now that I have finished it, though, I'm just glad I can go back and flip through it whenever I want to find that world again.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars com Paige's life is perfect; perfect friends
I received a copy of this book in exchanged for a honest review. In no way did the author or publishing company influence my review. Read more
Published 28 days ago by LauraElisabeth
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking for an Edgy Teen Girl Angst Novel ?
One thing about having a lot of books on your kindle is that you never know what you are in the mood to read and it may take you a while to get around to a book that's been sitting... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Paula L. Phillips
3.0 out of 5 stars First Published Novel
I liked "The Princesses of Iowa"; even after I finished reading it. You may think this is a rather strange statement. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Kaye Gilbert
4.0 out of 5 stars Jam packed with issues but an enjoyable book
Review originally posted on The Book Addict's Guide

I admit that I was a bit hesitant going into this book due to so many middle-of-the-road and disappointed reviews... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Brittany // The Book Addict's Guide
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story of discovery
The Princesses of Iowa is a well-written, believable story about young people learning about who they are and what is important for interacting with other humans. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Brian Dowd
2.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to like it...but pretty shallow and unreal
I grew up in rural Iowa and went to U. of Iowa for college. I do not know if it is true of this book, but there is an ENORMOUS amount of YA literature set in iowa - mostly due to... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything I Want From a YA Book
This book. I don’t even know why I finally decided to read this book. It had been sitting on my Kindle forever and I’ve been trying to read what’s sitting on there, but seriously,... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Maggie
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely.
This is a beautifully written first novel about love, true friendship, and discovering and being yourself. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
The Princesses of Iowa was kind of a deep book and that's one of the reasons I liked it. It starts out cliché, with the popular boy dating the popular girl and a drunken car... Read more
Published 16 months ago by em99ranch
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good.
This book is just great. It is very inspirational and teaches you to stop drinking and driving. Well thought out and a great book for people to read.
Published 20 months ago by Karen
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More About the Author

M. Molly Backes has lived in Wisconsin, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Illinois. She has taught students of all ages, and once got 150 of her middle-school students to write novels for National Novel Writing Month. About THE PRINCESSES OF IOWA, she says, "I always identified with the kids who didn't fit in, but one day I started wondering about the kids who did. What if you did everything 'right,' and it still wasn't enough?" Molly lives in Chicago with her family, and her greyhound, Zia. She teaches writing at StoryStudio Chicago and stops to pet every dog she sees.


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