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The Princesses of Iowa Hardcover – May 8, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.


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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; First Edition edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763653128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763653125
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,840,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
Soon-to-be High School Senior, Paige Sheridan HAD a perfect popular life until one wild night of partying ends in a car crash, which involved her best friends. Although only one of her friends was seriously hurt, Paige found herself exiled to Paris and spent the summer as an Au pair. All Paige wants is her life to be back to normal, but upon returning from Paris everything seems very different.

This was a very interesting book to read. I found myself seriously wanting to smack all of Paige's snobby friends and Paige upside the head. Although annoyed, I find it to be a good thing..It means that I really got into this book. There were so many interesting characters in this book, some obviously I hated, but others I really loved. The Princesses of Iowa deals with a lot of issues from teen drinking to homophobia to self-discovery and growth. I really enjoyed this book and the writing style, from the unusual beginning to the end.

I would absolutely love to read a sequel especially if its more about the down-to earth characters Shanti, Ethan and Mr. Tremont , who in my opinion made the book even more fantastic!

I really loved that this was based in Iowa! I was born in Iowa, but moved to Texas when I was 6. I have many lovely memories of Iowa. It is a very beautiful state!

Special Thanks to Candlewick Press and NetGalley for providing an e-galley in exchange for an honest review
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Format: Hardcover
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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