Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review: The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes

Senior year.  This is it, the perfect year that Paige Sheridan and her two best friends, Lacey and Nikki, have been waiting for since middle school.  The year they will become princesses, every moment of being picture perfect, perky, pretty, and popular all worth it when they're the ones in crowns on the homecoming float, cheered on by an adoring crowd.

Except after the accident last spring, one stupid night of stupid mistakes, everything is different.

After spending the summer exiled in Paris, shoved on a plane in the middle of the night by her mother with no chance to say good-bye or explain anything to Lacey or Nikki or, even worse, her boyfriend Jake, Paige is back for a new school year and a new start.  But nothing is as she left it.  Lacey spent the summer in rehab, walks with a cane, and is barely talking to Paige.  Resentment, blame, and guilt simmers between the two, and Lacey won't forgive Paige her summer in Paris.  Nikki is scary-skinny and super-focused on a student anti-drunk driving campaign that seems especially designed to keep the accident fresh in everyone's minds.  And Jake, once absolutely adoring of Paige, is spending a suspicious amount of time with Lacey.  Every time Paige brings it up, Jake just tells her to chill - he's just helping Lacey out, because she's having a really hard time.  And Paige... well, Paige is no longer sure of who she is, what she wants, or who she wants to be.

So when Paige's creative writing class (in the class that Jake totally ditched out on to take film appreciation with Lacey) gets a new teacher, Mr. Tremont, a graduate student from the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop program at the University of Iowa, she suddenly discovers she has a real voice.  Ethan and Shanti, both classmates she never would have looked at twice in her old princess life, take Paige under their wing, including her in coffee shop writing sessions, impromptu road trips, and a different kind of friendship - the kind where you can say what you mean, feel what you feel and write about it, and just be yourself.

But even with a pen in her hand and friends who don't care if her mascara isn't perfect, Paige can't escape her past mistakes.  As she sorts through what happened last spring and figures out who she wants to be - and be with - a bigger drama unfolds at school.  One that she can't cover up or hide from.  Is Paige strong enough to do what's right?  Or will she once again fold under the princess pressure of everyone who wants her to be perfect Paige?

If you loved Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall, don't miss The Princess of Iowa!  Paige is a former mean girl whose popularity haunts her as she grows out of her clique and into herself.  You'll love to hate Paige's mom, a former homecoming queen who's never moved on, and the horrible Lacey who, even after what should have been a life-changing accident and a summer of rehab, still can't manage to get over herself.  Paige's sister Miranda (who would like to be called Mirror, thank you very much) is fabulous - awful and wonderful in one package, like any good baby sister.  And Ethan and Shanti are pretty much awesome - fun, arty, chill and willing to let Paige take her time figuring it all out.  For writers, drama nerds and popular princesses, M. Molly Backes shines in her first novel - check it out @the library!

(who can't wait to get my hands on The Diviners by Libba Bray tomorrow morning!)

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