Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: The Princess of Iowa

The Princess of Iowa, by M. Molly Backes. The GoodReads 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.
I finished this book yesterday, but for some reason, despite the time I’ve had to think about it, I’m having a hard time gathering my thoughts on it. I think it’s maybe because this book deals with some hard issues—and gave me so much to think about—that even now I'm still processing it all. But anyway . . .

Paige is a bit of a difficult character. And I mean that in the best possible way. She feels so real, for better or worse. While I never disliked her, some of her decisions made me cringe big time, since she does some pretty unkind, thoughtless, petty things. But where Paige redeems herself is in her slow evolution from a popular, flawless, one-dimensional girl into someone who starts to see that maybe being perfect isn’t everything and that there’s more to life than being homecoming queen. The process is slow and painful, and she backslides quite a bit, but still, she moves forward and gradually becomes someone I can admire.

Somewhat perversely, I really liked the deteriorating relationship between Paige and Jake. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like Jake and I was rooting for Ethan the whole time, but still . . . I really thought Paige and Jake’s relationship was well written. The author made it so easy to understand why Paige is clinging so hard to her relationship with Jake, even when it’s clear to her and everyone that it’s just not working. To Paige, Jake represents an idyllic time when everything seemed perfect in her life, and I can’t blame her for finding it hard to let go of that, even when I got frustrated with Paige for letting herself stay in a toxic relationship for so long.

This book tackles quite a few issues: drinking and driving, homophobia, the beginning and ending of friendships and romantic relationships, parental pressures, popularity, taking responsibility, and a few others. Before I started this book I wondered why it was so long for a contemporary YA (464 pages), and now that I’ve finished it, I can see that the book needed to be that long just to deal with all the issues. And I appreciated the way that the author wrote about all these topics—I didn’t feel preached to or condescended to, and I liked that she took the realistic route and didn’t tie everything up with a nice little bow. Some stuff doesn’t get resolved, or it doesn’t get resolved the way I, or the characters, would have liked, but that’s how it goes in the real world. The book ends happily, but not everything is perfect, which is a valuable lesson, I think—that things don’t have to be perfect to find happiness.

Overall, a well-done issues-centered book. Recommended for fans of Lauren Oliver’s “Before I Fall” and Courtney Summers’s “Some Girls Are.”

Rating: 4 / 5


  1. That's possibly the best spam comment, ever. :) I'm sad I won't be at book club to discuss this. I'm a little worn out on issues books, but I definitely want to get to this eventually.

  2. I don't know how I'm going to go with this one. Paige sounds like she'll get on my nerves too much. Good to know that there isn't completely a happily ever after ending. That makes it sound heaps more realistic.


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