March 14, 2012

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

At First Sight: Paige Sheridan seems to have everything in life: she's pretty, popular and well-off, in fact, she just spent the summer before senior year in Paris. But things are not quite as rosy colored once you look closer. The previous Spring, Paige was involved in a drunk-driving accident with her best friends Nikki and Lacey, and her mother exiled her to Paris so the scandal would die down quietly.

Now that she's back, Paige expects things will go back to normal, with her and her friends at the top of the High School food-chain. But that's easier said than done. Nikki is an apologetic wreck who has lost too much weight and is obsessed with this big 'Don't let your friends drive drunk' presentation she's planning. Lacey is in full-frienemy mode, bitter because she has been through a hell physical therapy and will probably walk with a limp from now on. 

Lacey is also holding onto Paige's secrets - things about the night of the accident that Paige herself isn't ready to remember - and manipulating Paige's boyfriend into spending time with her instead of Paige. That's how Paige finds herself in a Creative Writing class all alone - as her boyfriend transferred to Film Appreciation to 'be there for Lacey'.

Paige wants to hate the class but she soon finds herself sucked in the whirlwind their new teacher, Mr. Tremont, starts. Through writing and letting her thoughts go, she starts to deal with - and remember - what really happened the night of the accident, and she also starts to hang out with a different crowd of people - like the school's news paper editor Jeremy, or outspoken Shanti, or new boy in town Ethan - and become closer to her sister, and to see the cracks in the foundation of her Perfect Life. 

Second Glance: Confession time! When I saw the size of this book I didn't think I was going to be able to finish it (it's over 450 pages long). But when I started to read and before I knew I had read 200 pages and I was hooked. 

The Princess of Iowa is a very interesting and engaging book. At first I didn't like Paige, of any of her friends, in fact, they all irritated me, but I really wanted to know what had happened with the accident so I kept on reading and when I met the Creative Writing crowd, I loved those guys.

Paige wasn't always easy to like, and even late in the book she made some questionable choices, but she learns from her mistakes and I realized she was just really struggling with whom she was going to be if she wasn't Perfect Princess Paige.

I loved Shanti and Ethan and Miranda/Mirror (Paige's sister). I even liked Nikki by the end - she's one of those characters that you totally dismiss and then they surprise you though they remain essentially what they have always been.  

I had two small problems with the book, though. One that it's long and sometimes it felt long, there is a lot of stuff happening and I think that some of it could stand to be cut to make the novel flow a little better. And two, the romance. There was so little of it that I felt like it could have been cut and the story would have been fine. I liked it but sometimes it felt like an afterthought because the book was more about Paige growing up than anything else. 

Bottom Line: The Princess of Iowa surprised me with how how much I loved it and how fun it was to read. The characters felt real and they were complicated. It's very much a story of growing up and learning to face the consequences of our actions. It's a wonderful debut novel and I look forward to read more of this author's work.

Favorite Quote"How the hell do you sum up your sister in three minutes? She's your twin and your polar opposite. She's your constant companion and your competition. She's your best friend and the biggest bitch in the world. She's everything you wish you could be and everything you wish you weren't."
starstarstarstar1/2Personal Favorite

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