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Book Review

August 2, 2012
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‘The Princesses of Iowa’

Courtesy of Beaverdale Books

Review by Cathryn Lang

By M. Molly Backes

Candlewick Press


$ 16.99

441 pp

Feeling nostalgic for your high school years? Then “The Princesses of Iowa” is a total reality check. M. Molly Backes didn’t fit in during her high school years, so she wanted to write from the perspective of those high school students who did fit in. This book reveals the dirty, little secret that is learned at the 20th high school reunion — whether popular or outsider, few of us felt like we fit in. The princes and princesses who uphold their prescribed identities are just as insecure (maybe even more so) as the outsiders who bravely create individual identities at an early age.

Paige Sheridan is an aspiring homecoming princess in her hometown of Willow Grove near Iowa City. Paige and her friends have studied the “requirements” to become Homecoming princesses since middle school. Paige has popularity, the “right” friends, good looks, the football captain boyfriend, the proper attire for each situation and she earns excellent grades. The girls have even practiced the “Homecoming float wave” (elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist, wrist) in anticipation of their turn on the princess float during their senior year. An alcohol-fueled automobile accident after a fraternity party upsets Paige’s life plan. With the help of her creative writing teacher (an alum of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop), she forges a new, more introspective identity.

Backes has done a superb job of creating multi-dimensional characters from what could have been stereotypical caricatures. She looks behind the motivations of her characters to show their human strengths and failures. “The Princesses of Iowa” will help parents understand the pressures their teens are facing and reassure teens that life outside of the high school years does get better! CV

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