The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes
The Skinny: After a harrowing drunk driving accident involving Paige and her two BFFs Lacey and Nikki, Paige is shipped off to spend the summer in Paris to be a babysitter for the baby of a completely a dysfunctional family. When she returns, she is suddenly thrust into her senior year, her aspirations of being Homecoming Queen going full throttle, and the excitement that comes with ruling the school with her two BFFs. But things have changed and her friends have become distant. Her perfect boyfriend has began spending time with Lacey, claiming he’s just helping her recoup after the accident. Paige’s life seems to be thrown for a spiral and all the things she had hoped senior year would be are suddenly not as exciting. But when her new creative writing teacher encourages them to begin writing the truth, despite how hard it is, Paige begins to see her life – friends, family, boyfriend – in a new light. As she struggles to deal with the reality of her situation and the haunting night of their accident, Paige begins to realize that being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
BFF?: Um… I’m not really sure what I feel about Paige. On the one hand, I liked her. I thought she was deeper than she seemed and that even though her thoughts and actions didn’t show her depths, there were moments that we got to glimpse into them and see her for the girl she could be. But on the other, she was kind of out of control. She let things become important to her while she was telling herself that they shouldn’t be important. She placed value on things and people that didn’t deserve that value and even though she knew it was wrong, she continued to place value on them because it was what was expected of her. I suppose we all do that a little, but it was really hard to see from an outsider’s perspective.
Readability: This was an interesting mix of your standard contemporary writing with amazing poetic stream of consciousness writing. I sometimes feel like when I get MAJOR upset or emotional about something, I start talking in run on sentences, bringing in every thought possible. Some of the writing/Paige’s thoughts were like that so it was really interesting to read them and actually get being like that.
Crush Level: F–K NO and Hooray!
I didn’t do numbers because neither really deserved them. First, let’s talk about Jake. He may SEEM like a great boyfriend, but from the first second he slithered onto the page I saw how slimy he was. Okay, maybe I didn’t… I really wanted him to be a good boyfriend because he did act like one. And I genuinely believe he WAS one. But then he started being all “Oh, but Paige, Lacey needs a friend right now. You should be a better friend. I’m going to be her friend” and I was all “Dude, fucking hang out with your girlfriend! Stop being a douche!” but he didn’t listen then just ended up turning into a total slimeball who I wanted to punch the end.
Then there’s Ethan…. I do love a good nerdy boy and Ethan totally topped the cake! He wasn’t so much nerdy as he was just kinda quirky and sweet. He did things like give Paige his sweatshirt when she was cold, joked around with her, was silly and sweet… Okay, I just liked him.
I was never on our homecoming court and really didn’t give two thoughts to homecoming, so I don’t really get all the drama that was involved in this. But apparently in Iowa it’s a big deal and people still care about this.
I’m not really saying that I SUPPORT teen drinking because I don’t. Just say no, kids. But I like that this book wasn’t afraid to deal with the reality of it. The accident at the beginning of the book wasn’t this life-altering event and suddenly everyone quit drinking. I liked that they still drank. I like that there was still partying. I liked that they still dealt with consequences. It made it very real.
This book made me want to take a writing class SO BAD. Or at least emulate some of the writing exercises Mr. Tremont gave his students.
Commencement Speech: I had some rather interesting reactions to this one. First off, I really enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting. Secondly, I loved putting myself in the characters’ shoes. I was most definitely NOT in the popular crowd in high school and it wasn’t until college that I got in with the “in” crowd. If… such a thing exists in college. Maybe when your college is the size of a high school? Anyway. I thought the Princesses of Iowa was a great look into the life of the “in” crowd and the idea of finding yourself on the edge of it, realizing you’re not the person you always thought you were. That, however, is where the positive thoughts end. But let me preface this by saying I really enjoyed the book. No complaints so much as bad gut feelings about the characters. First, Paige’s mom. I HATED her. I just didn’t get how she could be so obsessed with Paige and homecoming, and basically ignoring the fact that her daughter was hungover all the time. Ugh, worst mom of the year, yo!
Next, all the gay stuff – ignorant stereotypical insults and slurs, protesting, rumors – got to me. Like REALLY got to me. Mostly because I hate hearing people talk so cruelly about anyone. There were a few scenes that featured really horrible conversations that made me feel all ragey inside. Which, I think, is what made this book so powerful to me. It made me feel lots of emotions and feelings towards not only the characters but ideas and scenes.
So yeah… if you’re looking for a good contemporary that isn’t preachy, that uses the typical high school archetypes, definitely check this one out. I am so glad it was our Forever Young Adult book club read for Feb!