Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: The Princesses Of Iowa by M. Molly Backes

Title: The Princesses Of Iowa 
Author: M. Molly Backes 
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Format: eBook
Pages: 464
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from March 3 - 6, 2012
My rating: 5 stars: I love it! It's amazing! + Favorite
Summary: 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.

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.

This book was a love at first sight as well as at first read for me, meaning it is as good as it looks! I was hooked from the very first page where Paige talks about last spring and the accident that changed everything in her life. It's told in such an honest clarity that I fell in love with the voice of Paige Sheridan aka Princess Paige or Perfect Paige.

After the accident, Paige is exiled to Paris. Her mother cleans up the mess that was the accident during her absence. When Paige comes back to Iowa, she expects to see her two best friends, Lacey and Nikki, and her boyfriend Jake, waiting to welcome her back at the airport, but they don't show up. She meets them all later at Jake's barbecue party (if I'm not mistaken), that's when she realizes things aren't exactly the way they were before. Lacey, now crippled from the accident last spring, is mean to her and avoids her. Nikki spends all her time trailing after Lacey and sucking up to her. And Jake doesn't even have time for Paige anymore, always saying something like Lacey's going through a tough time right now and he has to be there for her. 

Apparently Paige and Lacey are having a fallout. You'd think that if Lacey's s having it so tough she'd turn to her best friend and tell her what was wrong. But no, that's not what she does. She, in fact, barely says a word to Paige at all since she got back, if not a sarcasm or something mean. That annoys Paige. And the fact that her other best friend and her boyfriend are practically taken away from her by Lacey also annoys her even more. 

I totally felt for Paige. I hate people like Lacey. I hate it when best friends turn their backs on each other. I hated Lacey so much. I wanted to smack her head on a goddamn stone. I wanted tattoo "bitch" on her friggin forehead. I wanted to run a car over her. Using her own private misfortunes to manipulate people like that disgusted the hell out of me. It was also no excuse to be a bitch. You know the feeling when you hate someone so much you want to scream and break things? Yep. My hatred for this character was so strong I thought my head was playing tricks on me, but then I realized it was the book. It could make you feel so much. Good job, Backes!

I think the greatest thing in The Princesses of Iowa is the Creative Writing class. I've never had a creative writing class before. High schools where I live don't have this class, which sucks, because it's the one I want to take most, rather than stupid math and frustrating Thai I could never ace. Anyway. Paige takes Creative Writing (which is an elective Jake was supposed to take with her but he changed to Film Appreciation or something because "Lacey needs a friend". Yeah right.). There is a new teacher, Mr. Tremont, who's totally gorgeous and also a great teacher. In this class, they interview a partner, do free writing starting with "I remember...", and do a workshop where the selected few write something for the whole class to analyze and criticize. This is so cool, guys. I never knew what a Creative Writing class is like, 'cause apparently I've never taken one, so it's nice to read about it. Mr. Tremont is awesome. Through this class, Paige slowly discovers things about herself and about other people. She realizes that she's happy when she's with Shanti and Ethan, two new friends she makes in the class, as well as feelings about certain things she never knew she feels that way about before until the free writing. It dawns on her that maybe Princess Paige isn't who she really is, but who she wanted to be, who everyone expects her to be. And maybe she doesn't want to be a princess anymore.

I love that The Princesses of Iowa starts out with the day the accident happened last spring which leaves some questions in our heads, like who was driving, and what happened exactly. I thought the author would leave it at that, and I was prepared to say that I didn't like it that way. But this book goes on to surprise me when near the end, things are finally revealed. Memories start coming back to Paige in vivid details. Love it!

Now, as I already mentioned my hatred for Lacey, let's talk about other characters. I really really do like Paige for her down-to-earth-ness and her honesty. She might seem kind of snobby at first, being the perfect girl everyone looks up to and all, but her character develops and she evolves to become a very likable character indeed. I also like Shanti and Ethan very much. Shanti is this opinionated person who isn't afraid to say just what she's thinking, no matter how unvarnished it is, and takes no crap from no one. Ethan is a funny and sweet guy. A total cutie! He likes to joke and every time he does, I felt myself falling a little bit more for him. At first, Paige is slightly held back with them, but then she relaxes and then she's happy when she's with them. Awww. They really have fun together.

Paige's family is a little bit weird. She rarely ever mentions her father who's actually there. I often found myself convinced that she has no dad or something. Her dad's really nice, from little information we have about him. However, Paige's mom is such a pain in the butt. I mean, what kind of mom insists that her daughter wears only a tiny dress and no sweater although the day is cold as hell, just because the sweater doesn't look good with the dress and that Paige has to make a good first impression because she only has that one chance? Please. She's trying too hard to keep Paige's image perfect that she doesn't really have time to care about the real Paige. I understand why Paige's little sister, Miranda aka Mirror, is so against her in the beginning of the story. Paige is her mom's favorite daughter, I guess, because she's pretty and has a shot at becoming Homecoming Queen. Mirror was practically a bitch to Paige, but then it changes when she sees that Paige has changed. The sisterly love is between them is cute.

Paige's boyfriend Jake and the other best friend Nikki are okay characters to me. Jake seems very endearing at first, but when the Lacey thing happens again and again, he started to bug me. However, he does some really sweet things for Paige, like writing her poems. That's extremely sweet, okay. Another part I like is when Jake accepts it when Paige says it's over, and graciously steps back. Although he's a bit of a jerk, you can't say he's that bad a boyfriend. Clean-cut ending, yay! Nikki similarly bugs me too. She's like a dog trailing after Lacey, always trying to please her. She's also kind of dumb. She hasn't been a great friend to Paige after her return to Iowa, so I can't really say I like Nikki much.

Mr. Tremont = fantastic. Enough said, really. I hope my to-be Creative Writing teacher will be like him.

I didn't have any problem with the length. I didn't think it's too long or much longer than it needs to be. The characters and the story both need time to develop. Honestly I think it's good the way it is, although it really is long. It's so fun to read and so addictive that time just flies by. I really did enjoy Backes' writing. There are some parts where she created fast-paced narrations using no full stops. She just let Paige talk. It's these parts that I really enjoyed reading, because it gave me such excitement and the feeling like I was on top of the roller-coaster going down as my eyes quickly followed the words. She did a great job with both the characters and the storytelling here. Fantastic.

The Princesses of Iowa deals with teen problems such as drinking and driving, friendship falling apart, and self-discovery. Told in a clear and honest voice, it's the kind of book you want to read again. At least for me. I'm definitely going to pick up a copy when it hits bookstores on May 8, 2012.


This review is also posted on Goodreads.

I received the ARC of this book from NetGalley and Candlewick Press.

1 comment:

  1. 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.


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