of Beaverdale Books
Review by Cathryn Lang
By M. Molly Backes
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!